At 470 killed, traffic deaths return to the bad old days - Albuquerque Journal

At 470 killed, traffic deaths return to the bad old days

A DEATH-PLUS EVERY DAY:

Well the final 2021 traffic fatality numbers are in, and they are enough to make you seriously consider hunkering down and never leaving home again.

Not only did 470 people die on New Mexico roads last year – more than one every day of the year – but we shattered the pedestrian death tally with 99 killed.

For a little perspective, according to the data compiled by the state Department of Transportation and University of New Mexico, annual traffic deaths have not surpassed the low 400s since 2007. In fact, in 2015 the 298 road fatalities (the lowest number recorded in two decades) would have led you to believe we truly had come a long way from the recorded high of 522 road deaths in 2004. There was hope as a state we had finally found a nexus of design, technology and personal responsibility that had us on a path to safer roadways.

And then 2021 happened. It looks a lot like the late 1990s (485 deaths in ’95, 481 in ’96, 484 in ’97) and the early 2000s (464 in 2001, 488 in 2005, 484 in 2006). Pedestrian deaths are even more shocking – the recorded high of 88 deaths in 1995 had been trending steadily down, to just 34 in 2010. But since then they have been ticking up, breaking the record at just shy of 100 people killed on foot in a calendar year.

BUT ALCOHOL NOT TO BLAME AS OFTEN: Looking back over the last quarter-century there is a bright spot. Whereas alcohol was a factor in 48.86% of the deaths in 1996, 235 of the 481 killed, last year it played a role in 24%, 111 of 470 of the road deaths involved booze.

NEW TECHNOLOGY SHOULD HELP LOWER IT MORE: At the tail end of last year, President Joe Biden signed into law reforms that our own U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luj á n, D-N.M., has been championing to stop DWI before it starts.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a mandate that every new car come equipped with technology that will detect and stop drunken driving.

Luján has emphasized the mandate should be of little to no cost as it will primarily involve software upgrades to existing systems. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has three years to set the final rules. That might include cameras and sensors that detect inattention or lane departure, up to on-board alcohol detection systems. Carmakers will then have two to three years to get those updates on their assembly lines.

MVD KIOSKS GET USED: After the Jan. 10 column included that the state Motor Vehicle Division is adding a third kiosk to handle vehicle registration renewals and citation payments (two are at Albertsons, one is at the Sandia Labs credit union), reader Gary Phipps asked how many folks really use them?

“What purpose are these serving except as a potential source of added income to a select few businesses?” his email asks. “I say ‘potential’ since I have never seen anyone using the kiosk installed at our local Albertsons. I see the market ‘need’ for these as small if not non-existent. … To me the online version is even more user-friendly, convenient, etc., etc., than the new kiosks. Are there really that many people who enjoy spending money on a task that has been, and continues to be free?”

Thousands.

Charlie Moore, who handles information for MVD through parent agency Taxation and Revenue, says “since we started the program a little over a year ago, 2,716 transactions have been made at the kiosks. The vast majority of those are registration renewals, though there have been some citation payments, too.”

“We are always looking for ways to make it more convenient for people to do business with us, and the kiosks simply provide one more channel for that,” he said. “This is a good option for people who may not be connected at home or who like the ability to print their new sticker right on the spot. That said, the reader is correct that the website is an excellent option for the most common transactions for people who have access. We have expanded options there, and our online transactions have skyrocketed in the last two years.”

FYI, the kiosk program offers a 5% discount to offset the $3.95 transaction and 2.3% credit card fees, and it all “comes at no cost to the state. By partnering with the vendor, we can provide more convenience to those customers who choose to take advantage of the program.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

 

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