- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Traffic fatalities in the District and Virginia increased last year, making 2007 one of the deadliest years in recent memory.

“We keep losing hundreds and thousands of people on our highways, and a lot of it is because of … careless and reckless actions,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. “It’s almost like a broken record. People have got to make a conscious decision to make driving safely a priority.”

In Maryland, officials could not provide up-to-date figures on traffic fatalities.

Police in Virginia said 1,007 travelers died on the state’s roads as of yesterday morning, marking the first time traffic fatalities in the state topped 1,000 since 1990, when 1,071 persons were killed.

The record number for traffic fatalities in Virginia is 1,256 in 1972, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Miss Geller said the spike last year corresponds with an increase in fatalities from accidents involving motorcycles: 116 motorcyclists had died on the state’s highways through October, up from the 70 motorcycle riders killed in all of 2006.

“The deaths seem to be occurring among males in their 40s to 50s on the leisure and touring bikes, which a lot of times means you’ve got too much bike, too much power and not enough experience,” Miss Geller said.

Statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department showed that 54 persons were killed in traffic accidents in the District as of yesterday.

The total is a 25 percent increase from the 43 fatalities recorded in 2006 — two of which were tallied by the U.S. Park Police — and the highest number in the city since 72 traffic deaths were recorded in 2001.

The District also experienced an increase in pedestrian fatalities compared with 2006. Twenty-five persons were killed in 2007, compared with 17 in 2006, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation.

“There’s all kinds of possibilities [for the increase],” said Jim Sebastian, Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager for the Transportation Department. “I think the number of people walking in the District is going up and the number of people driving in the District is going up.”

The highest number of pedestrian fatalities recorded in the District was 95 in 1934, Mr. Sebastian said, and the city had not recorded 25 pedestrian deaths since 1993.

Maryland officials said 540 persons had been killed on state roads through most of November.

The state recorded 651 traffic fatalities in 2006, and a State Highway Administration spokeswoman said 2007’s total was likely to surge once numbers from December were calculated.

Early yesterday morning, a Jeep Cherokee slid on an icy road in Frederick County and into the path of a tractor-trailer on the U.S. 15 bridge. The Cherokee’s driver, Alex Keepers, a 31-year-old Loudoun County firefighter, was killed.

“December is generally a month that leaves, unfortunately, a large number of fatal crashes,” highway administration spokeswoman Lora Rakowski said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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