The North Coast Journal this week really highlights the safety problem that already exists on Humboldt County’s roadways. In this sad context, we must note that the Richardson Grove and Highway 197/199 projects will result in an increase in the largest trucks driven on our local roads by out-of-area drivers coming from points all across North America. In fact, that’s part of the point of these projects–to allow the biggest trucks to carry goods from their distant origins all the way to end points in Humboldt County (or through Humboldt County to endpoints beyond) without switching to a smaller local truck first.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, large trucks are only 4% of registered vehicles, but account for 11% of fatal accidents. When a big truck and a car collide, 97% of those who die are car occupants. The last thing we need on Humboldt County’s roads are more big rigs driven by tired drivers who are not familiar with our area’s steep, winding roads.
“…And so goes the steady drumbeat of vehicle fatalities in Humboldt County, which plays on with alarming — if numbing — consistency, leaving a trail of lives both shattered and lost. Statistics show Humboldt has some of the most dangerous roads in the country, with fatal accident rates double the national average and nearly triple those of California. The rates are so high, in fact, that in 2013 Humboldt’s per-capita motor vehicle fatality rate — 20.72 deaths per 100,000 residents — eclipsed that of any state in the country save for Montana (22.6), according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Our rates of vehicle-versus-pedestrian fatalities are also some of the highest in the country. In 2013, the last year for which data is available, California recorded 1.83 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents. Nationally, the rate was 1.34. In Humboldt that year, it was 4.44.
Perhaps worst of all, Humboldt County’s rates in both categories have trended sharply upward over the last decade, while national and state rates have dropped almost 50 percent….”