Pundits and some politicians recently have been calling for a reduction in the enforcement of minor traffic offenses by our police.
We respectfully, and strongly, disagree.
Thanks to a number of factors, our roadways are more dangerous than ever. In 2020, there were 38,680 deaths on U.S. roadways, the most since 2007, even though pandemic precautions had dramatically reduced driving because people were staying at home.
In 2021, overall traffic fatalities continued to rise at a record pace. Nearly 32,000 people were killed in vehicle crashes in the first nine months of 2021, a 12 percent increase from the same period in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It was the highest number of fatalities during the first nine months of any year since 2006 and the highest percentage increase during the first nine months of a year in the reporting system’s history.
Why are Americans driving more recklessly than ever?
We believe a number of factors are at play, including an increase in drug and alcohol use during the pandemic, the decline in the use of seat belts, a huge increase in distracted driving because of the use of electronic devices, and a general disdain for societal restrictions that have spilled-over into a disregard for speed limits, stop signs, etc. on our roadways.
The rise in motor vehicle deaths follows other pandemic-era trends: Alcohol sales have soared, drug overdoses have set new records, and homicides have seen their biggest year-over-year increase on record.
In light of these alarming trends and statistics, suggesting that our police should curtail traffic-law enforcement is nonsensical.
We realize that routine traffic stops often are fraught with peril, both for the officers and for members of the public, as happened once again with the recent tragic shooting of a Black man by a white officer in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
However, in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, the new mayor of New York, Eric Adams, noted that we must do more to ensure that effective police enforcement is coupled with respectful, non-abusive police behavior. Those concepts are not inherently mutually-exclusive.
Moreover, said Adams, “If you don’t have public safety, everything crumbles.”
The ancient Romans put it this way, “Let the safety of the people be the highest law of the land.” That is as true today as it was 2100 years ago — and that is especially true on our streets and highways.