MONTPELIER, Vt. — State troopers across Vermont are conducting what they’re calling “saturation patrols” in the aftermath of a series of crashes that killed eight people in four days, including seven in less than 24 hours.
Troopers are always focusing on highway safety, but the crashes between last Friday and Monday heightened the emphasis, said state police Traffic Safety Commander Lt. John Flannigan.
“We want to make (sure) the public knows that driving responsibly is important,” Flannigan said. “People need to make the effort every day to drive safely. It should be a fairly easy concept, to drive with respect to others, make sure you are wearing your seatbelt and that your primary mission is getting to your destination safely.”
Seven of the eight people who died last weekend were not wearing seatbelts.
Earlier this week in the aftermath of the traffic deaths, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he was open to discussing whether Vermont should change its seatbelt law so police can stop drivers for not using seatbelts, known as primary enforcement. In the past, Scott has opposed such a law.
Currently, drivers can only be ticketed for not using seatbelts, if they’re stopped for another reason.
“I’m not sure that primary enforcement is going to solve the issue but if it can be determined that it will help in any way then I would look more favorably on it than I have in the past,” Scott told Vermont Public Radio.
The special patrols that started Thursday and will continue into the weekend have focused on drivers who are speeding, distracted behind the wheel, not using seatbelts or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Vermont public safety officials are encouraging drivers to slow down, not be distracted by cellphones and not to drive when impaired by drugs or alcohol.
While the spate of crashes last weekend could have been a coincidence, Vermont has seen an uptick in highway fatalities over the last several years, Flannigan said.
Vermont, which has a seatbelt use rate of about 85 percent, is lower than a number of other states, which have seatbelt use rates above 90 percent, Flannigan said.
Earlier this week in the aftermath of the weekend fatalities, Vermont public safety officials highlighted the need for driver safety, while also calling for personal responsibility with police on the roads.
In the quadruple fatal crash in Bridport on Monday, the car crossed the center line of Route 22A and hit an oncoming pickup truck. The four people in the car, who were not wearing seatbelts, were killed. The two people in the pickup truck, who were wearing seatbelts, survived with minor injuries.
Other fatal crashes happened in Brownington, Milton, Royalton and Springfield.