Vermont sees most highway deaths in a decade

Deaths on Vermont roads hit a nearly 10 year high. 73 people have died in crashes here, the most since 2012.
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 8:18 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We are closing out another deadly year on Vermont’s roads. There were 73 highway deaths in all-- the most the state has seen since 2012 when there were 77.

That is the exact opposite of what state police want to see, and as the calendar turns a page, they hope through collaboration and education, they can right the ship.

Drivers we spoke to who were headed up Interstate 89 in Williston say Vermont’s roads aren’t safe.

“Texting is what I would say is the most, speeding, there is a lot of speeding,” said Alan Rubel, a driver from Barre.

“A lot of distracted driving, that’s for sure,” added Dale Degreenia, a driver from St. Johnsbury.

Police say any deadly crash goes far beyond just the statistics.

“This is a ripple effect, any fatal crash is like a giant rock in a very small pond. It’ll ripple for a long period of time,” Vermont State Police Sgt. Paul Ravelin said.

Of the 73 killed this year, 60% were unbuckled, 42% were driving drunk or drugged, and 31% were speeding.

Ravelin says all of those deaths were preventable and that drivers are responsible for making sure young kids are secured safely.

“Belting adolescents and infants is very, very important. Using the proper safety seat, installed properly and the seat belt adjusted properly for the younger passengers. It has to fit them properly. If you have any questions, we certainly have many programs out there to fit your car seat safely, properly, how to adjust it to a smaller frame person, if they need a booster seat and so on so that it fits them properly,” he said.

Ravelin says state police can’t ticket their way to fewer deaths.

“The partnership that we have with the folks that use our roads is more important than the number of tickets we are writing or the number of arrests that are made,” he said.

Next year, state police plan to work more directly in communities with educational programs, increased exposure to state police, and targeted partnerships with communities or local law enforcement. Ravelin says the goal is to meet the problem at the decision before it’s too late.

“Any one of those decision points are removed from the scenario and the likelihood of a fatal crash has gone down significantly,” he said.

Ravelin says it isn’t foolproof, but there really is only one goal for 2022. “We don’t want to see another year of 73 fatalities,” he said.

Those sharing the road agree and say every action has a consequence.

“You’re affecting everyone behind you too,” said Degreenia.

The 10-year average from 2011 to 2020 is 71.5 deaths, so 73 is only a bit higher. And in comparison to other decades, this year’s number is still lower.

As we come up on New Year’s Eve, state police want to remind drivers not to get behind the wheel impaired, but to have a plan going into the holiday.

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Vt. State Police ‘alarmed’ by spike in fatal crashes

Vermont 2020 highway deaths on upward trajectory

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