Summer means many things to Alaskans, like fishing, hiking, outdoor sports and picnics. But as the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner and the Department of Public Safety Commissioner, the long days of daylight enviably mean more deaths on the road.
We aren’t going to tell you something you don’t already know; most drivers already know there are more traffic deaths in July and August than any other month in Alaska. But we are going to warn you that we’ve already seen more traffic fatalities this year than we have in several years and we are concerned.
People have been killed on our roads when their deaths were 100 percent preventable. Choices with speed, alcohol and seatbelts played a role in these tragedies.
As of May 27th, Alaska has had 26 fatalities; almost double the number of deaths by this time last year or each of the previous two years. Preliminary reports show that skidding, swerving, or sliding due to poor weather and road conditions were involved in 27 percent of the crashes, unsafe speed played a role in 23 percent, driver alcohol was suspected in 18 percent, and driver inattention was involved in 18 percent. Early reports show that nine occupants who died had chosen not to use their seatbelt. All fatal crashes have multiple factors, meaning for example that a driver can be impaired, distracted, and driving during poor weather conditions all at the same time.
If you already drive at a safe speed, drive sober, and use your seatbelt, then our hats are off to you for being part of the solution. We hope that you encourage others to do the same.
If you know someone who likes to speed, who drives impaired, or doesn’t use a seatbelt, please, please, please talk to them. Their lives are worth the risk of irritating them.
Point out that it’s better to leave a little earlier or take a few more minutes to arrive at a destination then to never arrive at all. Suggest a designated driver plan or if that doesn’t work, take their keys. They will thank you in the morning. And most of all, tell them to wear a seatbelt. It takes three seconds to buckle up. Three seconds. We have already lost nine people on Alaska roadways this year because they did not wear their seatbelt.
And if you have to, remember REDDI: Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately.
If you see a driver doing these any of the following things, call 911 and report the car along with its description and location. Please stop at a safe place or have a passenger make the call. Remember, the driver may be ill or intoxicated and shouldn’t be on the road. State and local law enforcement agencies will respond as quickly as possible. Signs may include:
- driving with windows rolled down in cold weather
- passing dangerously
- straddling the center line
- making wide turns
- driving slowly
- forgetting to turn on headlights
Please: do your part to drive safely and encourage others to do the same: remember; the life you save may be your own.
Marc Luiken is commissioner of the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Joe Masters is commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
For more information about highway safety contact:
Alaska Highway Safety Office
3131 Channel Drive, Suite 200
PO Box 112500
Juneau, AK 99811-2500
Phone: 907-465-6994 or 907-465-4030