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Officials: Driver Behavior To Blame For Uptick In N.H. Deaths

Flickr, Courtesy of dfirecop


New Hampshire saw around a 40 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2018, reaching the highest number in over a decade.

As of December 26, the numbers from the Department of Safety put the total of fatal crashes to 129, and the number of deaths from those crashes to 142.

Highway Safety Commander William Haynes says he expects some variation from year to year - the toll in 2016 was 136 deaths - but the numbers this year  exceed the Department of Highway Safety's predictions.

"Based on everything we knew - if you took the statistical analysis - we would hit 114 [fatalities]," he says. "It became really alarming when we went by 114 and creeped up above 136 deaths."

Haynes says only about 1 percent of deaths were the result of a mechanical failure in a vehicle; 8 percent were the result of a medical emergency.

But many occurred because of what Haynes calls "human behavior;" between 30 and 40 percent of the fatalities were the result of drug and alcohol use.

And then there's the issue of distracted driving.

"The other things that we're seeing that are somewhat alarming is failure to yield, which we haven't seen in previous years," he says. "And we're seeing a number of center-line encroachments which appears to be more of a distraction-related issue."

Haynes says his department is looking at ways to encourage drivers to reduce speed, eliminate cell phones, and avoid driving under the influence of any drugs, including over-the-counter prescriptions.

The final report on 2018 fatalities will be available at the end of January 2019, pending results of toxicology tests related to several crashes.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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