Speeding. Tailgating. Texting. Road rage.
You see a lot of dangerous things on Massachusetts roadways these days, but you want to know one thing you don’t usually see?
Where are all the police?
More than 400 people died on Bay State roads last year — a 19% spike from 2020 — and the number of deaths this year is on pace to be even higher.
It’s an unnecessary tragedy any time someone dies on the roads, and it’s becoming an all-too-common statistic. Speed and aggressive driving are literally killing more than one person a day in this state.
And yes, we are to blame. State data show that a growing number of motorists in Massachusetts drive recklessly and fail to wear seat belts.
Plus, the legalization of pot has triggered a spike in motorists driving impaired.
But police have an important role in preventing highway tragedies, whether it’s from just patrolling the roads or stopping or arresting those who break the law.
And anecdotal evidence from drivers indicates that there seem to be fewer visible police on the roads.
Commute any day next week, and you’ll find motorists driving more than 90 mph, weaving in and out of lanes, driving the breakdown lane and tailgating at dangerously close distances. Many people apparently realize or believe they won’t get caught. Especially since the pandemic, speeding has shot up and police have clocked drivers going over 100 mph in some cases.
It’s a modern day version of the Wild, Wild West and the sheriff is out of town.
Are police deliberately standing down, stopping fewer drivers, or cutting back on patrols?
To be fair, you couldn’t blame cops for looking the other way at speeders and reckless drivers. It’s never been more dangerous to be a police officer. The anti-law enforcement attitude in this country has those charged with protecting us and enforcing the laws on edge.
On the roads, pulling over motorists even for speeding has risks. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.
But something has to be done to stop the carnage and fear that’s overtaking our roads.
It’s not just police that need to step up enforcement. Courts and judges need to be more strict in cracking down on those charged with motor vehicle offenses.
Right now, reckless operation of a motor vehicle is a misdemeanor with just a mandatory 60-day license suspension. That’s a joke. With the increase in deaths and reckless driving, the penalties for driving offenses need to keep up to be a deterrent.
And the Registry of Motor Vehicles needs to get off its bloated butt and start suspending drivers and keeping them off the roads for longer periods.
State transportation officials call the increase in road fatalities troublesome.
But where is Gov. Charlie Baker? Or Boston Mayor Michelle Wu? The speed limit of 25 mph on city roads is a joke. No one goes only 25 mph. Neighbors have even taken matters into their own hands to put up signs to encourage motorists to slow down.
It’s not working. The epidemic of speeding, road rage and reckless driving is real.
Politicians need to keep the heat up on police and the courts to take enforcement of traffic offenses more seriously. Just encouraging people to wear seat belts is not enough.