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Bring reckless driving to a screeching halt

Traffic makes it ways into the city on the I-290 into downtown, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. There were an estimated 280 traffic fatalities in Illinois during the first three months of 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times)

We urged motorists to pump the brakes on reckless driving in May when the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s preliminary data revealed traffic fatalities nationwide in 2021 were the highest they’d ever been in more than 15 years.

The latest NHTSA figures are just as crushing and an indicator that the push to keep drivers steering toward safety must continue at full speed.

Ignore the requests — to slow down, buckle up, stop looking at texts and sober up before jumping behind the wheel — and more lives will be lost. Drivers can spare themselves a ticket, too, which police should not hesitate to hand out to those who fail to heed the rules of the road.

During the first three months of 2022, an estimated 9,560 people died in traffic-related incidents across the country, a 7% increase compared to the same period in 2021 and the worst total recorded since 2002, according to the NHTSA.

Illinois wasn’t spared the devastation.

There were an estimated 280 traffic fatalities in the state during the first quarter of 2022, the NHTSA found — a whopping 24% increase from the same duration in 2021, the Sun-Times’ Manny Ramos reported.

Then in the next three months, that number rose to 584, according to the nonprofit National Safety Council, which has statistics for the first half of 2022. That’s an 8% increase compared to that time period in 2021 and a 32% jump from the first half of 2020.

Motorists hitting the road need to keep in mind the lost loved ones behind the data.

Take the case of 14-year-old Arnelis Flores, who died after an alleged drunken driver rear-ended her father’s car while he was stopped on a shoulder on the Eisenhower Expressway in July.

Arnelis’ father, who had taken the teen and her siblings to an illegal car meet, was also charged with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol following the crash, Ramos’ article indicated.

Both drivers made poor choices, decisions that could have been avoided and ensured their safety as well as others.

Gas prices have kept some Americans from driving, but many are still choosing to travel in their cars to avoid maskless strangers on public transit.

The risk of contracting COVID-19 could decrease if commuters opt to forgo buses and trains.

But danger also awaits on the roads, where motorists began ignoring safety rules during the height of the pandemic when fewer vehicles were on the streets.

Drivers must make a U-turn from the bad habits and risk-taking activities — drag racing and drifting included — that have lingered since then. Hazards will always exist on the road, but curbing bad practices that make the hazards worse is the responsibility of everyone who gets behind the wheel.

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