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Vermont launches new traffic fatality message boards - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont launches new traffic fatality message boards

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

More than 50 people died in traffic-related incidents on Vermont's highways last year. Now, the state has launched a new initiative to try to prevent more from happening.

Every Wednesday, the big road signs on the sides of Vermont's major roads-- that are often used for marking construction or an emergency site-- will flash the number of deaths that have occurred on the state's highways to date. The Vermont's Agency of Transportation, which is behind the signs, hopes that number doesn't increase too quickly.

Wednesday, April 6, the signs read 13 deaths; next Wednesday, it could be more.

"From week to week, day to day sometimes, we see an increase in the number of fatalities," said Kevin Marshia, VTrans chief engineer.

Eight of the 13 people who have died already on Vermont's roads this year were not wearing seat belts. VTrans officials say this time last year there were only five total fatalities on the highways, fatalities VTrans officials say could have been avoided.

Speed, distracted driving and driving under the influence: These are all things that VTrans officials say drivers can control. And they're hoping that these signs are a sobering reminder that they can do that.

"Our goal isn't to frighten people with the signs. Our goal is to put that message out there. It's real information. Those are 13 lives that would still be with us had someone possibly done something different behind the wheel," said Marshia.

Many drivers say they like the idea. Some even noticed that other cars-- once they passed the signs-- slowed down.

"Anything that will help make the highway safer," said Bill Baker, Waterville.

The message boards aren't the only way VTrans is warning drivers. VTrans will alert people via social media and on its website, but officials there believe that the road signs drive home an unfortunate truth.

When we spoke to drivers Wednesday, some wondered how effective the signs will be long term. VTrans officials say the idea for the signs came from following the lead of states like Tennessee and Colorado, where similar campaigns showed a decrease in the number of highway fatalities over time. They're hopeful Vermont's try at the road signs will be just as effective.

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