Highway Safety

State highway safety officials say increasingly aggressive drivers and texting while driving continue to plague Vermont's roads.
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Vermont is seeing more cases of aggressive driving on its roads. And more drivers are using cell phones while driving, even though it's against the law.  We're talking with highway safety officials about how they're addressing these issues. 

A stock photo close up of the blue lights atop a police cruiser.
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Vermont’s law enforcement agencies are adding nine new "drug recognition experts," or DREs, as the state sees an increase in the number of drug-impaired driving incidents and crashes.

A Vermont State Police cruiser watches for speeding drivers on I-89 in September 2015.
Steve Zind / VPR

Vermont lawmakers are taking up a new highway safety bill that could make failure to wear a seat belt a "stoppable offense," as well as introduce tougher penalties for young motorists using cell phones while driving.

The push comes after a third of victims in Vermont's fatal crashes last year weren't wearing seat belts, in what was the deadliest year on Vermont roads in four years.

Gov. Phil Scott says the commission's findings bolster his case for a statewide teacher contract.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR/file

The chairman of the House Committee on Transportation says he’ll push for more stringent seatbelt laws during the next legislative session.

A marijuana plant.
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Gov. Phil Scott says he’s about to convene a “blue ribbon commission” to study issues related to the legalization of marijuana.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

As House lawmakers ponder whether or not to legalize marijuana, two key questions have risen to the fore: Will legal pot make Vermont’s highways more dangerous? And will more young residents use cannabis if it’s sold legally in stores?

The answers all depend on who you ask.

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Vermont highway safety officials are concerned about the number of people driving on the interstate well beyond the speed limit. In just the last month a number of drivers have been clocked at over a hundred miles per hour.

Bob Kinzel / VPR

State transportation officials are using some new high-tech tools to help inspect the condition of roads throughout Vermont. And legislative leaders say the program helps the state target its transportation resources to those projects that are most in need of repair.

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Dozens of schools were closed again in Vermont on Monday. The culprit this time was the low temperature, not heavy snowfall. Bitter cold makes starting buses and heating school buildings a big challenge.

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State transportation officials are assessing if a type of guard rail that's been installed in Vermont over the last 10 years poses safety hazards to the public. They are taking this step because a number of states have determined that these products are unsafe and could cause serious injury to motorists.

In the past month, four states, Massachusetts, Missouri, Virginia and Nevada have banned the future use of guard rails that were manufactured by a company in Texas.

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Statistically speaking, it’s a good year to go for a drive. According to the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance, the number of traffic fatalities is half of what it was a year ago. State transportation officials aren’t sure why, but they say it may be due to better and more widely shared data.

By mid October of last year, 64 people had died in traffic crashes in Vermont. But so far this year, the number of roadway fatalities is 32, a dramatic drop.

There's a stretch of Vermont Route 4, between Bridgewater and Hartford, that's locally referred to as the "crash corridor." That section of road was the site of 392 motor vehicle accidents between January 1, 2008 and June 9, 2013. Included in that number are seven crashes resulting in eight fatalities - five of which occurred this year.

In June the crash corridor was the focus of a Highway Safety Roundtable, organized by the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance. A report on the meeting is posted on the Town of Hartford website.