When it comes to traffic safety, we at DOT know that a combination of strong laws, stepped up enforcement, and public education campaigns is the key to saving lives.
So I was pleased to learn recently that, over the past five years, the State of Mississippi has significantly reduced the number of traffic fatalities on its roadways.
The number of people who lost their lives in automobile crashes in Mississippi is down from 931 in 2005 to 641 fatalities in 2010. That's an impressive 31 percent drop. This decline earned the Mississippi Department of Public Safety a regional award from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Mississippi's achievement was recognized for this award from among 14 southern states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This recognition comes at the same time that the number of traffic fatalities nationwide fell to the lowest levels since 1949, despite a sharp increase in the number of miles Americans drove last year. Over the last five years, traffic deaths across the nation have declined by 25 percent.
For example, out of the 641 people killed on Mississippi roads in 2010, 340 of them were not wearing a seat belt. As Jon Kalahar of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, said, “That's just too many of something that is so easy to do. It just takes a matter of seconds to [put] that seat belt on.”
I have to agree with Jon. While 85 percent of Americans buckle up when they get in the car, amazingly, some 45 million Americans still won’t buckle up.
So, as pleased as I am with the direction traffic fatality statistics are moving, and as grateful as I am that Mississippi has made such terrific progress, DOT will continue pressing forward on our safety initiatives, and I know that states like Mississippi will be doing the same.