PennDOT, AAA, PSP Urge Safe Driving Behaviors for “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, AAA Mid-Atlantic, and Pennsylvania State Police are recognizing “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” and urged motorists to slow down, steer clear, and never drive distracted to keep everyone on our roadways safe. “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” is Saturday, October 10, 2020.

According to PennDOT data, in 2019, there were 1,059 fatalities on Pennsylvania roadways, with 217 in the Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties).

“We are still dealing with ‘new normal’ due to COVID-19, but one thing that remains constant is motorists must continue to do their part, for themselves, road workers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, to drive safe because one life lost is one life too many”, said Robyn Briggs, PennDOT District 6 Safety Press Officer. “Please use this safety day as a reminder to commit to practicing safe driving behaviors.”

Work zones are also a serious concern for crashes and fatalities. In 2019, there were 1,745 work zone crashes, resulting in 16 fatalities and 58 serious injuries, statewide. The Philadelphia region saw 444 work zone crashes, resulting in one fatality and 14 serious injuries. 

To help combat work zone crashes, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s enforcement of the statewide Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE) program began in March.  Vehicle-mounted electronic systems detect and record motorists exceeding posted speed limits by 11 miles per hour or higher in active work zones. Registered owners will receive a warning letter for a first offense, a violation notice and $75 fine for a second offense, and a violation notice and $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses.

Speeding and distracted driving continue to play a large role in crash fatalities. Of the 217 fatal crashes in the Philadelphia region last year, nine were due to distracted driving and 37 fatalities were due to speeding. Serious injuries occurred in 107 speed related crashes and in 73 crashes where a motorist was distracted. In 2019, there were also 63 pedestrian fatalities in the region.

“It is critical for the safety of all road users that motorists obey traffic laws, reduce speed, eliminate distractions behind the wheel, don’t drink and drive, slow down, and move over for emergency vehicles in order to prevent unnecessary tragedies on our roadways,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “The frequency of drivers engaging in improper behavior is too high. If you point to the dangerous behaviors of others that you sometimes do yourself, then you are the problem. One loss of life is one too many.”

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research finds that drivers perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous, yet many admit to having engaged in these activities while behind the wheel – a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality.  For example:

  • Distracted Driving – the majority of drivers (96%) view driving while typing or sending a text message or an email as extremely or very dangerous, yet these same drivers text while behind the wheel.
  • Aggressive Driving – more than half of drivers (55%) view speeding 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway as extremely or very dangerous and (64%) perceive speeding (10 mph over the speed limit) on a residential street just as dangerous. Yet, nearly half admit to driving over these speed limits.
  • Impaired Driving – most drivers (94%) perceive driving after drinking as very or extremely dangerous. However, almost 10% admitted to having done so. 

“Statistics show that crashes are the leading cause of death among 16-24-year old age group,” said State Trooper Jessica Tobin. “Driver inexperience, distractions and speed are contributing factors. It is important to understand the decisions you make affect everyone. You, your family, the victim and their family, and society.”

October 10 marks the national safety campaign to raise awareness of the more than 35,000 lives lost each year, nationwide, in motor vehicle-related crashes. PennDOT encourages motorists to exercise caution every day and help eliminate fatalities.