Officials urge caution behind the wheel following recent fatal Bucks County crashes

Officials urge caution behind the wheel following recent fatal Bucks County crashes

Officials are urging county drivers to be careful on the road in the wake of several crashes that claimed the lives of Bucks County residents.

“People really need to take a deep breath and pay attention to what they’re doing,”  Falls Police Chief Nelson Whitney said.

In Falls, there have been three fatal crashes in the past three months, two of which involved people riding motorcycles or dirt bikes, according to the chief.

Earlier this month, there were two crashes in Upper Bucks County. One crash, near Nockamixon State Park, killed three people, and another crash killed a teenage driver in Milford.

Those came after a Central Bucks High School East student died in a crash in the Poconos following the high school's senior prom.

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Carly Mannon, who manages the Bucks County Community Traffic Safety Program, which aims to reduce traffic deaths by educating the community, said that there are many different factors that come into distracting younger drivers, such as other people in the car and cellphone usage.

All the recent accidents are still under investigation.

“There's so many different factors that we’ve never had to consider before,” she said, noting that now more than ever there are more distractions from phone apps, delivery services and activity in cars. 

She noted that some people are not remembering to buckle their seat belts as they begin to travel more while COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Mannon said that some people also are not wearing seat belts when making quick, familiar trips, such as running to get coffee or going to the gas station. 

“Those crashes and things are closer to home most of the time," she said.

The Bucks County Community Traffic Safety Program is following the safety campaign of what AAA is calling the "100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers, which is the summer.

More than 7,000 people died in crashes that involved teenage drivers between 2010 and 2019, according to the TMA Bucks, which manages the program. 

Schools being closed for the summer, summer activities and COVID-19 restrictions being lifted could be deadly while teens drive this summer, according to the TMA. The association encouraged parents to model safe driving behaviors and make sure their children are following their lead.

Mannon noted that kids driving for the first time with a new license are not allowed to have more than one other person in their car, aside from family, for the first few months of having their license.

Drivers under 18 can only have one non-family member under 18 with them in their vehicle for the first six months, according to PennDOT. After six months a young driver can have no more than three non-family passenger members in their vehicle.

PennDOT reported six fatal crashes in Bucks County between June 2020 and August 2020, a decrease from 11 those same months in 2019.

There were 46 fatal crashes reported in 2020, an increase from 44 in 2019, according to PennDOT data. 

Falls Chief Whitney said since the beginning of the year, there have been 459 crashes in the Falls, which he said is typical by this time of year.

Generally speaking, he said, people should slow down and be aware of other drivers on the road. He added residents should give themselves extra time to travel.

The chief noted that in the township, the department has found that traffic crashes are down during adverse weather conditions compared to normal weather conditions.

“You would think it was the opposite," he said.

Whitney said the drivers are likely overconfident and overestimate how dangerous it is to drive at high speeds.

Whitney said that people are distracted by their busy schedules or other stressors, but they should make a concerted effort to be more careful.

"It really all comes together in such a way to make driving something that’s dangerous," he said.

AAA projected in 2019 that 560,000 Philadelphia-area residents would be traveling by vehicle for the July 4 holiday. AAA did not have projections for the 2021 holiday as of Thursday, however the association reported that Pennsylvanians have a "pent-up demand" for quick getaways. 

A poll of Pennsylvanians by the association showed 28% of them are undecided, but could make a last minute trip, and another 29% of them said their travel is driven by a need for a quick "getaway."

Kathleen Zinszer, a AAA spokeswoman, said local travel advisors have not seen many travel requests for the July 4 holiday, however they are seeing people plan trips for later July through Labor Day.

The Labor Day holiday, she said, is seeing a lot of inquiries for domestic travel.

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