Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
The number of motor vehicle crashes, deaths, and related injuries occurring on our roadways continue to have a devastating toll on our citizens and visitors to our great State.
As of this past week, 163 people have died on Maine roads during 2012 and that is too many deaths, too many relatives, too many friends and too many Maine citizens. The safest driving occurs when drivers direct full attention to the road and their surroundings.
Most alarming is the number of young drivers killed as a result of distracted driving. Sadly, 14 teens have died on Maine roads during the past year. Twenty-seven fatalities involved 20 to 24 year-olds.
Unfortunately, too high of a percentage of all crashes are due to driver error. Last year, roughly 10 percent of vehicle fatalities were a result of distracted driving.
Law enforcement is serious about cracking down on distracted driving and texting while behind the wheel.
While no state bans cell phone use for all drivers, many prohibit use by young drivers. Thirty-two states, including Maine, ban cell phone use by novice drivers and texting while driving is illegal for all motorists in Maine.
I would also like to take a moment to talk about the importance of buckling up. Seatbelts save lives.
Each year, approximately 42,000 Americans die in traffic crashes and another three million are injured. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable if the victims had been wearing safety belts.
Fifty percent of young drivers in Maine who die in motor vehicle crashes did not buckle up.
It is important to protect our citizens. That is why I support the effort of the Maine State Police in stepping up enforcement of seatbelt violations, especially for young drivers.
In addition to this effort, law enforcement across our State will be looking to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.
Federal money is helping pay for the ‘Drive Sober Maine!’ campaign that started in December and will continue into the New Year.
Fifty-two Maine highway agencies, from Fort Fairfield to Kittery will work overtime to patrol at places and times where drunk driving is most common.
Alcohol related traffic deaths doubled in the first six months of 2012 with 32 OUI deaths compared to 15 deaths during the same period in 2011.
Whether it is drinking and driving or distracted driving – the consequences of either are too great. Lives are on the line and no life is worth losing.
As we head into 2013, it is my sincere wish that all Mainers enjoy the journey ahead of them.
Do not drink and drive and think twice about texting when behind the wheel. A safe driver is a responsible driver.
Ann and I would like to wish everyone a very safe and prosperous New Year.