Higher speed limits not cause of fatalities

September 21, 1996

IN YOUR SEPT. 8 editorial, you attributed the cause of recent Maryland highway fatalities to the increased speed limit.

Your choice of causes was inaccurate and misleading. The truth is that highway deaths are down in those areas where the speed limit was increased to 65 miles per hour.

The causes of the deaths of the more than 50 people killed in the last month on Maryland roads are quite clear -- aggressive driving, driver error, failure to wear seat belts and to use child safety seats.

Of those fatalities, more than half were either not wearing seat belts or in child safety seats. Most would have survived had they been properly restrained.

In one crash, eight of the nine people riding in a vehicle were ejected when the vehicle struck a bridge and overturned.

Those ejected included a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old who were both killed. No one was wearing a seat belt and the children were not in child safety seats.

The Maryland State Police Department strictly enforces speed limits and passenger-restraint laws. For more than a year, we have been involved in an intense campaign to target aggressive drivers. Over the Labor Day weekend, troopers issued more than 3,600 speeding citations and cited more than 1,000 motorists for seat-belt and child safety-seat violations.

Our enforcement of the seat-belt law would be even more effective if it was not a secondary violation, meaning police officers have to stop the driver for some other offense before the motorist can be cited for not wearing a seat belt.

It is my desire to see this law changed during the next General Assembly and I will work hard to accomplish this change.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is committed to making our highways safer.

Beginning Oct. 12, the mandatory age for restraint use by children will be lowered to 16 years. That means anyone traveling with a child under 16 years old must have the child restrained by a seat belt or child safety seat, regardless of where they are seated.

The Maryland State Police Department is doing its part to save lives on our highways.

Motorists must do their part, too. This means using their seat belts and ensuring that children in their vehicles are properly restrained.

To do less is to risk experiencing the same tragedies we have seen far too many of in recent days.

David B. Mitchell

Pikesville

The writer is superintendent, Maryland State Police Department.

Pub Date: 9/21/96

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