The year 2017 was the deadliest on Maine roads in a decade, bad enough that the state has launched a public safety campaign.

The state had 171 highway deaths through Sunday, an unofficial tally found. That’s the most since 183 in 2007, said Lauren Stewart, director of the state Bureau of Highway Safety within the Maine Department of Public Safety. Deaths totaled about 160 in 2016.

Twenty-one pedestrians were killed, the highest toll in records dating back to 1993, Stewart said.

There’s no common thread that emerges, but Stewart suspects distractions for both drivers and pedestrians have played a role in the growing numbers.

“Occasionally there’s going to be a spike in the numbers, and that’s what we saw this year. It was a bad year on Maine roads,” said Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland.

A state campaign called “Heads Up” will try to boost the safety awareness of motorists and pedestrians. Part of the campaign, focusing on pedestrian safety during the winter, already has begun, Stewart said.


This year there will be meetings in local communities with high incidences of fatalities to see what can be done to help. The state will offer reflective patches to pedestrians and grants to law enforcement officials for pedestrian-type enforcement.

McCausland said there’s plenty of blame to go around, but that pedestrians should be more careful.

“There are some basic things your mother told you: Look both ways before crossing the street. If it’s nighttime, wear something that can be seen, a reflector, or have a flashlight,” he said, noting that dark clothing and rural roads are a bad mix.

Another common problem is people walking on roads instead of sidewalks, but many rural roads don’t have sidewalks, he noted.

It also was a deadly year for motorcycle riders, with 27 dying on Maine roads. That compares with 18 in 2016 and 32 the year before.

The statistics run contrary to the notion of young riders on fast bikes; the average rider who died was 50 years old, Stewart said. All but three of the victims were men, and most of the accidents occurred during daylight hours, not at night.

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