Four people were killed in a horrific collision on Md. 31 in Westminster on Tuesday, excessive speeds by one vehicle the culprit in a head-on crash, according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office's preliminary investigation.
The day before, alcohol was allegedly to blame, according to Maryland State Police, in another head-on crash that involved six vehicles on Md. 140 in Finksburg during the morning rush hour.
And a little over a week before that, 12 were injured, including six kids, when the driver of one of the cars, possibly impaired, according to MSP, failed to control her speed.
If it seems major collisions are increasing, it's because they are. After dropping for decades, deaths due to motor vehicle accidents are on the rise. In 2015, road fatalities were up 10.5 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the biggest increase in half a century. They were up another 5.5 percent last year.
According to estimates from the National Safety Council, more than 40,000 people died nationwide in traffic crashes last year.
What's to blame? Are cars less safe than they were years ago? Quite the opposite, in fact. Almost every study on the subject shows that technological advancements like airbags and structural improvements to the chassis have made vehicles safer than ever. Some higher-end vehicle manufacturers are beginning to include features like automatic emergency braking systems and autosteer technology.
Is it the roads? Maybe in some cases. In Maryland at least, State Highway Administration officials regularly study stretches of road and interchanges where accidents frequently occur, adding signage or traffic control devices as necessary. And while some roads may be more dangerous than others, its often a matter of how motorists handle them and whether they obey posted speed limits and other rules of the road.
The fact is, more than 90 percent of crashes involve driver behavior factors, be it human error, drunk or drugged driving, aggressive driving such as excessive speeding or distracted driving.
Almost every crash can be prevented by making better choices. Don't get behind the wheel after drinking. Drive the speed limit. And put down the smartphone.
That last one is crucial. While in the past 10 years, technology has evolved to the point that most vehicles are now equipped to allow drivers to talk on the phone without using a handset, for many people, talking is one of the last functions of their phone they are using.
Instead of talking, we are texting, checking or posting on social media, taking selfies, watching videos, playing games or any other myriad uses for our mobile devices. The NHTSA called the use of apps and texting while driving a "crisis" last year, and they are right. Doing so is a recipe for disaster.
All of these choices, whether texting, drinking or driving aggressively, are also selfish choices. As we saw on Tuesday, the person who chose to speed through New Windsor and Westminster at more than 100 mph didn't just put himself at risk, in the process he snuffed out the lives of three young people, including one pregnant woman, who had their whole lives ahead of them.
It's one thing to make poor choices that put your own life on the line, but it's not fair to innocent people and their families who become victims to those reckless decisions.
Latest Carroll County Times Opinion
We implore everyone to slow down, to never drive impaired, and to focus solely on the road when behind the wheel so that our everyone can get home safely every day.