Valerie Vinyard

Resolving to become a safer driver in 2017 could help save your life.

It’s especially important now, because crashes are increasing around the state. In 2015, 895 people were killed in Arizona, 121 more than the year before, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report. 

The statistical report summing up data provided by law enforcement agencies around the state provides some sobering information about motor vehicle crashes last year, including the 15.6 percent increase in fatalities. While that’s still below 2006, the year the state experienced the highest annual number of fatalities at 1,301, it’s a daunting number.

Some of those fatalities most likely could have been prevented if laws had been followed or safety measures had been taken. ADOT found that 313 of those who died weren’t using a seat belt, child safety device or helmet, a 17.7 percent increase from 2014; 300 were involved in crashes related to speeding or driving too fast for conditions, up 25.5 percent; and 295 were involved in alcohol-related crashes, up 9.7 percent.

“As an advocacy organization, AAA is urging motorists to make a personal goal to be a safe driver in 2017,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “This is especially important as issues such as distracted driving are a growing public health threat.”

AAA Arizona is challenging motorists to make the following four safe driving resolutions for 2017:

• Put down the phone. Luckily, this safety fix is simple: Pull over to use your phone. If you can’t control the urge, use an app to block the phone from being operated while driving. And don’t think a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth makes it safer – it’s just as cognitively distracting to use hands-free technology as hand-held. 

• Check your insurance: Arizona has among the lowest state minimums for car insurance, meaning that if there’s a crash, insurance often isn’t going to fully cover the costs involved in repairs or medical bills if the driver isn’t adequately insured. As a result, it’s important to carry higher-than-mandated state minimums and uninsured/underinsured coverage.

• Know the laws. Many motorists aren’t aware of state laws – and not knowing can cost you a lot. For example, Arizona’s “Move Over” law has been expanded to include tow trucks and stranded motorists displaying alternately flashing lights alongside freeways and highways. Any time you see an emergency vehicle or any other vehicle with its hazard lights on, you must move over a lane to give it extra room. If you can’t move over, you must slow down substantially so long as it’s safe to do so.

• Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists. An increasing number of pedestrians are being killed in motor vehicle-related crashes in Arizona. Motorists should be especially diligent around crosswalks and look both ways for bikes. Pedestrians and cyclists should be aware of their surroundings, not walk or ride distracted, and wear bright or reflective clothing.

AAA is a leader in traffic safety. Go to Vinyard is a public affairs specialist for AAA Arizona. Contact her at or 258-0518.

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