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Troopers say don't be a statistic

December 23, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Fourteen people have died in vehicle accidents investigated by Pennsylvania State Police in Franklin County this year, a statistic troopers do not wish to see increase as 2008 nears its end.

"Over any holiday period, you see up to 15 people who will not be going back to work," Trooper Ed Asbury said Thursday of statewide holiday traffic deaths. "It's a given. It's a fact."

For years the focus of the state police has been prevention of driving under the influence. This holiday season, Lt. Wade Lauer said police are asking motorists to take other precautions.

"There's always heavier traffic and as a result the greater risk of accidents," said Lauer, the station commander at Chambersburg. "There's a few things we'd like people to do ... First of all, slow down and second of all, leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you."

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"Thirdly, and that to me is the key, is to wear a seat belt," Lauer said.

The 14 fatalities included 12 drivers, one passenger and a pedestrian, Asbury said. Two motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets and six of the 11 people killed in vehicles were not wearing seat belts, he said.

Those killed ranged in age from 15 to 84 and most died on local roads, although Interstate 81, U.S. 30 and U.S. 11 each had two fatal crashes on them, according to the statistics.

"What we have to do is get people to wear seat belts," Asbury said. People come up with excuses for not wearing seat belts, but none are worth trading a life for, he said.

There were other traffic fatalities in the county this year investigated by other agencies, including four in Washington Township and one in Chambersburg, County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said. However, Conner said his records do not reflect people injured in county accidents who were pronounced dead at medical facilities outside the county.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's 2007 Crash Facts and Statistics report shows 2007 was a much more deadly year in the county with 37 traffic fatalities, up from 23 in 2006 and 18 in 2005.

Eleven of the 2007 fatalities were alcohol-related, according to that report. The report showed 1,608 motor vehicle accidents that year and estimated that 78 percent to 80 percent of county motorists use seat belts.

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