By Ayah Galal
In 2017 alone, there has been more than 320,000 crashes in the state of Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Crash Data Repository.
Both police and the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) are trying to crack down on unsafe drivers.
“I think drivers should be more careful because they are not only impacting their lives but other people’s lives as well,” Afsha Kasam, a senior public relations major, said. Kasam was involved in a three car accident in Cheshire earlier this year and suspects one of the drivers was distracted by their phone.
Reckless driving and distracted driving can indeed have severe consequences. Statistics from the Connecticut Crash Data Repository show that of the 320,000 crashes in Connecticut this year, 254 were fatal. In 2016, there 268 fatal crashes, in 2015 there were 246 and in 2014 there 248.
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has 2015 Distracted Driving distracted-affected crash data which states that: 10% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were distraction-affected (for 2015)," Judd Everhart, Connecticut Department of Transportation Director of Communications said.
Last week, Connecticut State Police implemented increased security patrols for the Thanksgiving holiday week beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 22 and ending on Sunday, Nov. 26. Troopers patrolled highways and roads throughout the state and focused on drunk driving as well as aggressive drivers.
During this time frame, there were 524 accidents investigated. Seventy of them involved injuries and two of them were fatal. One of the fatal crashes happened in Cromwell on Interstate-91 northbound. Fifty-year-old Michael Rogers veered off the highway into the right shoulder and hit some trees. He was pronounced dead on scene.
As police were responding to the crash in Cromwell, a drunk driver struck a parked police cruiser.
The other fatal crash during this enforcement period took place in Killingly. Twenty-six-year-old Hope Butler traveled left off the Providence Pike and struck a tree. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Over the course of the Thanksgiving holiday enforcement period, there were 1,010 speeding violations, 363 seatbelt violations, 51 drunken driving violations.
Numbers from the Connecticut Crash Repository Data show that most crashes in Connecticut this year occurred on Interstate-95 and Interstate-84. More than 16,000 crashes on Interstate-84 and more than 12,000 on Interstate-84.
Most crashes occur between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Fridays.
"Defensive driving is something that most drivers have learned and is a vital tactic for being aware of potential dangers on the road - including distracted drivers," Everhart said. "For those who consider using their phones, eat while driving, check their GPS for directions, it is important to rethink those actions and get into the mindset of driving without distraction."
The Connecticut DOT Office of Highway Safety has been implementing aggressive yearly safe driving campaigns that consists of high visibility enforcement, public outreach and education campaigns and educational programming for high schools and young drivers.
August is National Distracted Driving month and during that month, Hamden Police relaunched the “U Text, U Drive, U Pay” campaign in which police cracked down on distracted driving. This campaign included partnerships with 51 police agencies in 2016.
"At the Highway Safety Office, Distracted Driving is one of many challenges that we work to address and it is a top priority. People go to work here at Highway Safety with the goal to save and protect lives on our roads from death or injury," Everhart said. "We partner with all levels of law enforcement agencies, universities, schools, and the media to get this message out in all forms including education, enforcement, and greater public awareness."
While police in Connecticut have conducted enforcement periods and distracted driving campaigns, the number of crashes within the state is still high and some are questioning whether law enforcement officials are doing enough to ensure people’s safety.