"During the holidays, there's a lot going on," said Delaware Office of Highway Safety Traffic Safety Program Manager Sarah Cattie. "Even in the height of a pandemic, there's still ways that people are finding, and communities are finding, to celebrate the holidays. So we want to make sure that people are adhering to those best practices and making good choices before getting behind the wheel."
The department has kicked off its annual Safe Family Holiday campaign and, this year, OHS has teamed up with law enforcement and area restaurants to spread their message of being safe on the roadways, Cattie told Peter MacArthur on WDEL's DelAWARE. It's a make that makes sense considering some of the rules in place during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
"We want to bring attention to several of our priority areas, and what we're looking to do is increase awareness of traffic safety, and really mobilize Delawareans to think about adhering to best practices in traffic safety," she said. "One thing that that we've done is partnered up with restaurants with that impaired message, because a lot of folks are still doing takeout and, because you can take alcohol out as well, we actually have some stickers and some campaign materials that folks might see when they place an order from certain restaurants."
It's a problem Cattie said continues to claim too many lives in the First State.
"impaired driving, that's one that continues to be a major issue for us," she said. "And we also look at things like speed because, getting into the winter months, the roads aren't going to be the same as the roads that you drove on in the summer. As the weather changes, the roadway condition is going to change and so that's something to pay attention to."
They're also debuting a new face who might appeal to the younger crowd to spread a message of safety on the roadways, and it'll be making appearances at events where folks will already be in their cars to encourage safe decisions.
"Luckily, things like live shows are still able to happen, because folks can stay in their car and socially distance," Cattie said. "So, we have a safety mascot--a little safety snowman, who has a safety vest and his own mask--and he'll be out making appearances and saying hi to people at a couple of events. We're hoping to have him at Winter in Wilmington Holiday Light Show and at Fifer Orchards' Donuts with Santa."
Other concerns Cattie said OHS had are small issues people turn into bigger issues by not minding laws or staying aware while they're travelling.
"If you have to make phone call or text, do that before you start your drive, make those connections and then put the phone down and just focus on driving--and buckle up," she said. "That's one of the easiest things to really protect you in your car, wearing your seatbelt. And then, also remember, even though it's the winter, we still have pedestrians out and about folks that are still needing to get to places, and so just be cautious as a pedestrian. If you can wear bright clothing, that's always helpful, because it's darker sooner. And then, as a driver, just be aware of pedestrians, they're not always in crosswalks, and you want to make sure that you give them the right away."
- Impaired driving: Last year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019), there were 26 crash-related deaths due to impaired driving/DUI and 4,188 arrests.
- Speeding: In 2019, speed was involved in 43 vehicle fatalities, accounting for approximately 32% of all traffic fatalities.
- Pedestrian safety: In 2019, 33 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes.
- Seat belt neglect: While seat belt use is at an all-time high in Delaware, 44% of vehicle occupants involved in fatal crashes were not restrained — a 32% increase from 2019.
- Distracted driving: A person who texts while driving is six times more likely to cause a crash than a driver under the influence of alcohol. In 2019, 37% of all distracted driving crashes in Delaware occurred during the afternoon rush hour.