More accidents: what’s going on?

Still more accidents on route 6, two within a couple of hours and a couple of hundred yards of each other last Saturday. Another fatality. Middle of the day, off season. Can’t blame tense tourist traffic this time. Early in the day to be driving drunk.

These added to the two big ones in the summer, one fatal. And the fatality of last year, in almost the same spot. “What the hell is going on here?” is not an unreasonable response. Why are we being victimized by the traffic gods?

What’s going on, indeed? We don’t know enough about that.

The state has mandated design changes for a stretch around the traffic light at the main entrance to town, but it’s not clear what changes would have prevented any of these accidents.

One reason it’s not clear is that we don’t usually learn very much about the accidents—the circumstances, causes. It would be helpful for us all and especially those actively trying to improve the situation to have more information than we usually can glean from newspaper reports.

News stories typically provide certain basics: when, where, that it was head on crash, that apparently one car wandered into the other lane, how many injured. Whether anyone died. We are usually told at the end that the police have it “under investigation.”

In the followup article to the recent fatality two days later we got the name of the victim and where she lived.

Often that’s about as far as it goes. If the police investigation turns up a fuller understanding of what happened, the newspaper usually doesn’t stick with it long enough to tell what the investigators found out. We never do get what you’d call the story, the attempt to reconstruct as if written up in a novel: How did the car get into the other lane? Cell phone use? Texting? Eating an especially exciting sandwich? An aging person suddenly getting a stage older?

Apparently we know—at least I’ve been told— about an earlier fatality of a well known local woman that she had a heart attack and wasn’t even alive to experience the crash itself.

How many of these accidents are medically caused and therefore wouldn’t have been prevented by a lot of design changes to the road, different signage, lower speed limit.

As for “what’s going on?” could it be that the epidemic of accidents reflects an aging population locally?

With cars zooming by each other at high speed only a few feet apart, so much depends on everyone staying alert and cherishing life. What about the high percentage of us we’re told are habitually depressed (the ones who haven’t joined the ranks of those on anti-depressants)?

Is it possible some cars wander into the oncoming lane out of sheer carelessness—that is, caring too little about life, their own and others,’ to stay between the marked lines?

Before attempting to cure the problem by design changes, it would seem to be crucial to have more complete newspaper stories to convey to the community the fuller meaning of the accidents.


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