The Times West Virginian

April 17, 2014

Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

Times West Virginian

— A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.

Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?

The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

Lt. Paul Blume, coordinator of the SRHSP, said this number is down from 338 in 2011 and 339 in 2012. Not major differences but differences nonetheless.

And what’s the reason for this decline?

Lt. Blume believes the new primary seatbelt law, as well as the distracted-driving law, has a lot to do with it.

“The Legislature passed and put into law in July the primary seatbelt law, as well as the distracted-driving law,” Blume said. “I think those things really contributed to those numbers going down.”

He believes people are getting the message to “buckle up and park the phone.”

“Those aren’t just numbers — those are family members, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and fellow West Virginians.”

This seatbelt law took four years to be enacted and, with the passage of the distracted-driving law, 2013 was a huge advancement for highway safety.

“I think these laws will make a real difference in the number of crashes,” he said.

Blume warned that in the coming months, law enforcement will be heavily monitoring the highways for seatbelt violations and distracted driving.

The lowest number of fatalities, 315, was recorded in 2010, but Blume said he hopes to see those numbers even lower in 2014.

Here are some of the programs coming under Target Red, a campaign that all regional Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) representatives use to spread awareness of the dangers of red-light and stop-sign violations.

DUI enforcement programs such as Over the Limit, Under Arrest, Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over, SADD and Checkpoint Strikeforce are GHSP’s impaired-driving initiatives.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Program is the lead agency for West Virginia’s participation in federally mandated and funded highway safety improvement measures.

The purpose of GHSP is to encourage, promote and support safety throughout West Virginia.

The state is split into eight traffic safety programs that cover all 55 counties. The bases of these operations are located in the population centers of Beckley, Bluefield, Charleston, Clarksburg, Huntington, Parkersburg, Martinsburg and Wheeling.

Each region has a designated coordinator to develop and implement the measures that their regions require to lower the total crashes, injuries and fatalities on the roadways in West Virginia.

These figures aren’t down by any major figure. But the fact they are down at all shows that some of these programs aimed at bringing them down are working.