‘It’s extremely tragic:’ Maine highway deaths jumped in 2022

The unofficial number of highway deaths stood at 177 on Thursday.
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 4:36 PM EST
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Maine (WABI) - The number of crashes on Maine highways - reaching a 15-year high in 2022.

Officials are calling this uptick in fatal crashes ‘horrendous.’

“For us it’s extremely tragic. It’s never just a number. It’s always a person,” said Lauren Stewart of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety is reporting 177 highway deaths in 2022.

Last year Maine saw 152 fatalities.

The data shows that about a third of these motorists were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both and about half of them were not wearing a seatbelt.

“The thing with the seatbelt is that the seatbelt will keep you in the vehicle. You’re traveling at the same speed as the vehicle is when you are a passenger driving the vehicle. The seatbelt is going to keep you in there when you’re in a crash. If you’re not wearing your seatbelt, the likelihood is you will be ejected from the vehicle, and it will likely result in a fatality,” said Taylor Dube of the Maine State Police.

Just because you’re only driving a couple blocks doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear your seat belt. Stay safe and buckle up. #ClickItOrTicket

Posted by Maine Bureau of Highway Safety on Thursday, December 1, 2022

James Tasse with the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is urging drivers to be patient, be on the lookout for pedestrians, and slow down, especially when driving on rural roads.

“Whenever you see a person walking on the side of the road, take your foot off the gas. That pedestrian or bicycle rider will hear your deceleration and know that you have seen them and are going to be respectful of their right to be on the road too,” said Tasse.

Officials say if you’re tempted to engage in risky behavior while driving, think of your loved ones.

“There is going to be somebody that misses you and it’s not worth that brief moment in time for your life, which has happened more frequently than it should have this year,” Dube said.

As you prepare for your New Year’s celebrations, make sure you plan ahead and use caution when out on the roads.

“You will get where you’re going, just slow down and leave yourself extra time. Buckle up that seatbelt. Those are the things I’m hoping people will do in the New Year. Those are the things I’m hoping people will always do and we’ll continue to do our public education and outreach and try to reach as many people as we can with the message to just drive,” said Stewart.