CUMBERLAND — Many Marylanders will take to the roads during the upcoming Columbus Day weekend in search of fall adventures. Nationwide from 2015 to 2019, October was the most dangerous month on America’s roads, accounting for more fatal crashes than any other month. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are teaming up for Operation Crash Reduction.

MVA’s Highway Safety Office is reminding all drivers of safe driving practices — such as adhering to speed limits, avoiding distractions and never driving impaired. The safety message also includes a focus on the importance of seat belt use. It’s the law, and it’s a fact that buckling up provides the best defense against injury or death in a crash.

Running Oct. 8-11, Operation Crash Reduction is focused on Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia — a region that sees some of the nation’s highest numbers of traffic crash fatalities. According to NHTSA, from 2015-2019, these jurisdictions experienced 885 fatal crashes from Oct. 1-15, the highest number of fatal crashes for the first 15 days of any month during this same time period. From 2015 to 2019, October was the most likely month for fatal crashes to occur in the region, with 1,785 fatal crashes. More than 46% of those killed in passenger vehicles, trucks and buses were unrestrained. During that same period in these jurisdictions, more fatal crashes occurred on Columbus Day weekend (253) than during the holiday periods of Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.

“For several years now, we have had this troubling trend in this East Coast region,” said Stephanie Hancock, NHTSA regional administrator. “We know speed, distraction and impairment are the root causes of most of the crashes in these states. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your primary sources of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired or distracted driver.”

Nationally, 45% of all front-row passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2019 were unrestrained, and 58% of those killed in back seats were unrestrained. In Maryland, 124 of those killed in motor vehicles crashes in 2020 were unrestrained.

MVA’s Highway Safety Office has used its rollover simulator at events around the state to demonstrate how being partially unbuckled or completely unbuckled can have deadly consequences.

“Buckle up, every seat, every ride. That’s what we are constantly reminding all road users when it comes to wearing seat belts,” said MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer. “Whether you are the driver or a passenger, there is no safe place in a vehicle without a seat belt.”

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