Vt. State Police Twitter offers eyewitness view of drivers behaving badly

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 6:49 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont authorities say 40 people have died so far this year on the state’s roadways, more than double this time last year. To help prevent more tragedy the “Green and Gold” have turned to social media to show what troopers are witnessing.

Vermont State Police Sgt. Jay Riggen says he noticed earlier this year that the pandemic was having little impact on the carnage on the state’s highways. “We think that if people are traveling less, then the fatals should go down -- and that’s not the case,” Riggen said.

He says that education behind the wheel stops for most drivers when they get their license. In an effort to continue that education, Riggen started the VT State Police Traffic Safety Twitter account. “To continue the ongoing messaging not about what will occur, but what may occur,” Riggen said.

The social media posts are real traffic incidents that troopers deal with every day. Some are deadly. One traffic stop Friday morning involved a driver going 100 mph in a 50 mph zone in Johnson. The tweet included the picture of the car pulled over along with advice: “This is death speed. The potential for anyone to survive impact at this level is low. Not worth it.”

Most of the tweets have a similar tone. "The stuff that we are showing are things that are going on all day, every day, all across the state. These are not unique occurrences and they need to become unique occurrences," Riggen said.

We showed drivers the tweets and got mixed reactions. “Any tool that the police use to educate the public is an important thing,” said Patrick Moers from Nevada.

“I think it’s a little over the top, for sure,” said Dan Minkkinen from Massachusetts.

Sgt. Riggen says the posts are meant to start a conversation and educate drivers. He says they try to remove identifiable marks on the cars if they post a photo, but at the end of the day, anyone can take a photo on the road of any car. Plus, all the information is available through public records. “None of this is designed to stigmatize, embarrass, or shame, and frankly I don’t prescribe to that type of ideology. This is a reality of what’s going on,” he said.

So as troopers like Riggen stay on alert, they hope drivers take heed. “We want to elevate people with knowledge, and what people do with that knowledge is on themselves,” he said.

Authorities say it’s too early to measure the progress of the social media campaign, but they say they hope this direct messaging gets drivers thinking before they get behind the wheel.

2019 was one of the safest years on record, with a total of 47 deaths for the year. That’s well below the ten year average of 62 deaths.

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