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Maine sees uptick in traffic deaths

Traffic deaths in Maine are at the highest they have been in years, a recent report indicated.

PORTLAND, Maine — This year, there have been 151 vehicle deaths recorded so far in Maine, compared to 117 deaths on this day in 2018, according to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It's a trend that's not only happening in Maine but across the U.S., and it's raising a lot of concern. 

"We have just received a report of our 150 fatalities this year, which is just horrendous to think that 150 people have lost their lives since Jan. 1 on Maine roads," Lauren Stewart, the director of the Bureau of Highway Safety, told NEWS CENTER Maine.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety projects about 12 more deaths to occur in November and December, which would total 174 deaths this year, the highest it's been since 2007.

Many families such as the Hutchinson's have lost loved ones because of car crashes.

"I received a phone call that night. I was working, and I was told that my little sister had been killed in a drunk driver crash," Nicole Hutchinson said. 

Hutchinson lost her sister, Darcie, 26 years ago to a repeat drunken driver. She said driving the road where her sister was killed takes her back to that day.

"The first 10 years I would drive past it every year. I would call those 'crash and burn days,' because as you can see, I could totally start crying right now, and it's been 26 years," Nicole said. 

The Trauma Intervention Program of Greater Portland is a volunteer organization group that responds to traumatic situations by serving as emotional first aid. 

"I find that really worthwhile to be able to help someone, whether that's talking to someone or whatever I have to do," Jennine Cannizzo, a volunteer with TIP, said. 

It's important to remember crashes affect more than just those behind the wheel. 

"Each one of these numbers is a person, a person that's not going to the Thanksgiving table or around the holiday tree. These are real people," Stewart said.

According to a study from the University of Maine that will be published in the November 2022 journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, the prevalence of speeding on Maine's rural roadways increased since the start of the pandemic, and most crashes involve high rates of speed. That makes it very hard to survive, especially with so many police departments in the state struggling with staffing, leading to fewer police officers on patrol.  

"There's just not as many as them [police] out there," Stewart said. "They are all suffering staffing shortages, and they just don't have the manpower like they use to have to make sure they are highly visible out there on our roadways."

On top of the deaths in car crashes, 14 pedestrians and 30 motorcyclists were also killed by a vehicle in 2022.  

This a good reminder ahead of what's expected to be a very busy holiday season on the roads.

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