|Courtesy the Daily Courier|
Arizona deserves an F on its driving record report card.
The bad grade isn't so much for its overall performance - which could be much worse. Rather the low grade is because the number of people dying in vehicle crashes rose in 2011 across the state and in Yavapai County for the first time in five years, according to statistics the Arizona Department of Transportation released this past week.
Here is what the ADOT figures tell us about 2011:
Statewide, 825 people died in 754 fatal crashes - an 8.7 increase from 2010. Fatalities had been on a steady decline since 2006's record 1,301.
In Yavapai County, 53 people died in 46 fatal crashes in 2011 - a 17 percent jump in deaths from the year before. Rural areas, in particular, saw 436 fatal crashes in 2011, representing a 14.44 percent increase.
The same ADOT report shows that 1,366 people were hurt in 941 collisions, and more fortunate people survived a total of 3,111 crashes statewide.
Statewide as well, 265 people lost their lives and 3,660 were hurt in 5,537 alcohol-related crashes, which was a 15.8 percent increase from the year before.
In Yavapai County, 184 alcohol-related crashes killed 14 people and hurt another 184, which was a 28.5 percent increase from 2011.
Motorcycle accidents in the Prescott area have caused special concern recently, because of the frequency and severity of them. Across the state, 132 motorcycle drivers and passengers died in 130 accidents, an increase of 55 percent over 2011.
As for the most prevalent reasons for these grim statistics, the ADOT 2011 Crash Facts report shows more than a third of the people killed, 292, were not wearing seatbelts and the most common violation was going too fast for road conditions.
If these sad statistics don't preach loudly enough, the safe driving habits are lost on too many people on Arizona's roads.
Look around home and observe: speeding, whipping in and out of traffic, unsafe lane changing, running red lights, following another vehicle too closely, using lanes exiting shopping centers for merging into traffic as passing lanes to get ahead of a stream of cars, puttering along rather than going the speed limit. Name it, and we see it all no matter where we go, but we are more aware of it in our hometown because that's where we drive the most.
Driving is frustrating, irritating and too often deadly.
Vehicles are potential killing machines. But, they needn't be if people would stop abusing the safe rules of the road.