Maine elected officials say they are prioritizing road safety in all future road construction projects. They are intent on driving down the number of injuries and deaths among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
The renewed commitment to improve safety comes amid reports from the Maine Transportation Safety Coalition that 131 people have died so far this year in Maine auto accidents, compared to 105 the year before, 112 the year before that, and 95 the year before that. Furthermore, a state-commissioned task force assigned in February to study ways to reduce traffic accidents in Maine has just released its final report. As of October 15th, there were 15 people killed in Maine pedestrian accidents so far this year. That’s substantially more than the nine who were killed at the same time last year, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
It’s part of a larger trend of rising road deaths and injuries that is reflected nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 6.3 million police-reported traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2015, with 35,000 people killed and another 2.4 million people injured. While drunk driving, distracted driving, and speed do play an out-sized role in these incidents, the task force also underscored the importance of better road design in Maine.
Improved road design and street engineering will be part of the Maine Department of Transportation’s updated three-year work plan, which starts in January. What that will mean is you will see more “smart growth” design incorporated into our roadways. There will be a greater emphasis on things like bicycling infrastructure, sidewalks, crosswalks, narrowed travel lanes, speed calming measures (including reduced speeds, roundabouts, and other strategies), and more visible striping and painting.
Pedestrians and bicyclists don’t have the benefit of being encased in a steel cage when they’re struck by a vehicle. That kind of vulnerability should afford them additional protection. The task force issued a recommendation to the state that all DOT contractors and staff formulate their infrastructure policy with the core understanding that roadways aren’t just used by motor vehicle drivers and passengers. Putting more emphasis on the rights and safety of those traveling by foot or bicycle in turn makes us all safer.
Our Bangor car accident attorneys know that for decades, highway and street engineering has been focused on envisioning drivers of cars, trucks, and buses getting where they need to go as efficiently as possible. The task force is recommending a de-emphasis on the “fast” part and a reconsideration of who the typical road user is. This is not a new concept. Maine DOT officials noted the benefits of walking and biking as transportation, which include:
- Increased retail sales;
- Better safety;
- Lower air pollution and noise;
- Less congested roads; and
- Less wear-and-tear on roads.
In conjunction with safer road design, the task force recommended several community outreach efforts, including several new safety videos, signage, and variable message boards.
As far as driver behavior, the task force indicated one of the No. 1 enemies is distracted driving. Cell phones and mobile devices are especially a problem. While Maine does have a prohibition on texting while driving, it has proven tough to enforce. Lawmakers passed a measure that would have prohibited drivers from using hand-held electronic devices while driving, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine to emphasize road safety in future construction projects, Oct. 20, 2017, By Peter McGuire, Portland Press Herald
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Maine Supreme Judicial Court: Murder on Highway Not “Accident” Per Insurance Policy, Sept. 1, 2017, Bangor Auto Accident Lawyer Blog