BNPD Launches ‘Safer SIDES of Driving’ Traffic Initiative

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Throughout the month of August, the Benton Police Department will be conducting a traffic safety initiative called the ‘Safer SIDES of Driving.’ SIDES is an acronym for:  
Seat belts 
Recent statistics, as of June 30th, show that accidents in Benton have fallen by 115 when compared year-to-date with the same time period in 2014 (722 vs. 607).  Although this is good news, there unfortunately have been two fatality related accidents in the past few months.  This also doesn’t include two additional fatalities that have taken place on the interstate within the city limits this year since those statistics are recorded by the state police.  
We want to continue the downward trend of accidents while also striving to send the number of fatalities towards zero for the remainder of the year. One of the ways BNPD is hoping to accomplish this objective is to educate everyone about the importance of five major factors while out on the roadways, which are the ‘Safer SIDES of Driving.’  Also during the ‘Safer SIDES of Driving’ Initiative, officers will be taking a firmer stance on traffic related infractions as a deterrent to those actions.  
The first ‘S’ is for seat belts and the importance they play in ensuring your safety on the road. While not all crashes are survivable, statistics show that the chances of surviving a crash rise significantly when properly restrained. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers and result in approximately $50 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs every year. Seat belt use is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.  
Of the teens (13-19) that died in crashes in 2012, approximately 55% of them were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.  As of 2012, the number of Arkansans who wear a seat belt while driving is approximately 72% and the national average is 86%.  Between 2003-2012 there were 4,933 people killed in traffic crashes in Arkansas and that number could have been drastically cut by seat belt usage since nearly 7 out of every 10 persons killed were unrestrained.  
Impairment ‘I’ plays an unfortunate part in causing countless accidents and fatalities every year.  Alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes cost more than an estimated $37 billion annually.  Just in 2012 alone, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, which is one every 51 minutes.  
Just like alcohol, impairment from illegal or prescription drugs can make driving a car unsafe and deadly.  It’s often incorrectly assumed that since it’s a prescribed medication that you can safely operate a car while using it.  In reality, you should always read and observe the warnings for the medication you are taking to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.  
The use of illegal drugs, such as marijuana or methamphetamine, can also greatly reduce your ability to drive safely. They can cause reductions in reaction times and the impairment of motor skills needed to safely drive.  There has been an increase in drugged driving related accidents the past few years, especially in states where drug laws have been relaxed and perception of harm has decreased.  
This is one of the reasons why the BNPD has at least one Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) on every shift.  A DRE is able to perform tests to determine the impairment of drugged drivers and ensure they are taken off of the roads so they’re not a danger to others.  
D’ is for Distracted driving and the issues it has increasingly caused over the past decade.  Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.  
Some forms of distracted driving are easily identified by most people such as texting, using a smartphone, or watching a video.  Some things that are often overlooked that also cause distractions include eating and drinking, grooming, reading, or adjusting a radio.  
Nationwide in 2013, there were 3,154 people killed in vehicle crashes and 424,000 people injured involving a distracted driver. Drivers in their 20’s make up approximately 27% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.  Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off of the roadway while texting.  When traveling at 55 MPH, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.  
E’ is a reminder to Evaluate everything from current driving conditions to the condition of your own car.  A commonly misunderstood issued regarding inclement weather and speed limits is that you can always do the speed limit regardless of conditions.  You can actually be given a ticket for going too fast for conditions, especially if the weather causes reduced visibility or loss of traction on the road.  
Although vehicle inspections are a thing of the past in Arkansas, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep things in working condition on your car.  You should always inspect the condition of such important items such as your tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and your headlights, taillights and brake lights.  If some of these are found to be defective you can be given a warning or a ticket as a reminder to fix the problem.  
Speeding ‘S’ is another big factor that is a direct contributor to traffic accidents.  It’s estimated that the annual economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is approximately $40 billion.  In 2012, speeding was a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes, and 10,219 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes.  
In 2012, 37 percent of 15-24 year-old male drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the incident.  During the same time, 42 percent of speeding drivers had blood alcohol content levels of .08 or higher, compared to 16 percent of non-speeding drivers.  
It’s our hope that we continue to see a decrease in the number of accidents and also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities as a result.  Making good choices while in motor vehicles such as never driving while impaired, always ensuring every occupant is properly restrained, maintaining the speed limit, and avoiding all distractions can often mean the difference between life and death.