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Major Traffic Death Increase Prompts Arizona DPS Crackdown

Photo of a wreck on I-10 near Quartzite. Credit: courtesy Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Photo of a wreck on I-10 near Quartzite. Credit: courtesy Arizona Department of Public Safety.
July 29, 2015

PHOENIX - Traffic deaths in Arizona are up 35 percent compared with the first half of last year, and the Department of Public Safety says it is cracking down on drivers to try to slow the trend.

There were 144 traffic deaths on state and federal highways in Arizona during the first six months of 2015, said department spokesman Bart Graves, compared with 107 deaths during the same time period last year. He said several factors likely are at play.

"Because more people are driving, gas prices are reasonable right now," he said. "For the most part, people drive regardless of the condition of their cars, tires. Sometimes they don't wear seat belts, and so all of these factors go into fatality rates."

Graves said five people were killed in two car crashes in the Phoenix area earlier this week. The driver in one of the incidents likely faces murder charges, after being charged with driving under the influence of methamphetamine.

DPS officers will be increasing enforcement in an effort to reduce the death count, Graves said, adding that ultimately the burden of traffic safety rests with drivers.

"Unless they resolve not to drive impaired, unless they resolve not to drive tired, unless they resolve to not be distracted, this carnage is going to continue," he said, "so, we're all in this together."

In 2014, traffic deaths in the first half-year were lower than normal, which Graves said may have been linked to higher gas prices that kept people from driving as much. He said DPS officers will be specifically citing motorists for seat-belt violations, because research shows a higher crash survival rate when seat belts are used.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ