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Efforts to cut down on Vt. highway fatalities - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Efforts to cut down on Vt. highway fatalities

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WATERBURY, Vt. -

Intoxication, texting and speeding kill dozens of drivers and their passengers each year in Vermont.

"We're looking to go down to zero fatalities. I think everybody scoffs at that, but I really believe that you can do it," said Ted Minall of the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The Governor's Highway Safety Program shared that goal with members of the state's Highway Safety Alliance and municipal officials. Participants in Wednesday's forum have backgrounds in highway engineering, driver's safety, law enforcement and emergency response. Together they're hoping to brainstorm ways to keep more motorists alive.

"We're looking at improved pavement markings, improved signage; low-cost safety measures that really make a difference," said Kevin Marshia of VTrans.

Last year there were 77 fatalities on Vermont's roads. More than half of the dead were not wearing seat belts or DOT-approved motorcycle helmets. Seat belt usage is the lowest in the Northeast Kingdom, Franklin County and the Connecticut River Valley.

"Forty fatalities is a lot of fatalities when all it took was to click your belt and it may have saved a life," Marshia said.

The Governor's Highway Safety Program says the only way to reach the 15 percent of Vermonters who don't buckle up is to change its message, and it's planning a more aggressive approach.

"All of our partners actually going into a town and saying hey, tell us why you don't wear your seat belt," Minall said.

Private sector partners added perspective about a different safety hazard-- Vermonters who have had their licenses too long.

"There is fear. There is anger. There is frustration," said David Peters of the AARP Driver Safety Program.

Peters runs hourlong workshops for AARP, coaching caregivers about when it's time for seniors to surrender their keys.

"If it reaches that time for me I want my children to say, dad, it's time. But I want them to do it with sensitivity," Peters said.

Simple warning signs include: missing stop signs, running red lights, confusing the brake and gas pedals, frequently getting lost and unexplained nicks and scrapes on the car.

Peters says elderly drivers cause a low number of crashes now, but he worries about what the future holds as Vermont's senior population is expected to skyrocket in the next 20 years.

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