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N.H. Sees Spike in Car Crash Deaths



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, December 21, 2018

Newport — A car crash in Newport on Thursday that killed a New York woman marked the 142nd fatal crash in the state this year, a figure that represents a 46 percent spike in traffic-related deaths compared with this time last year, state officials said this week.

Vehicle fatalities in both Sullivan and Grafton counties have more than doubled in 2018 from last year.

Seven people have died in traffic crashes throughout the state in the past 10 days.

These statistics — heading into one of the busiest travel times of the year — have officials warning drivers to slow down, pay attention and get a designated driver if necessary, said New Hampshire State Police Capt. William Haynes, the commander of the state’s Highway Safety Bureau.

“People are dying because of bad decisions,” Haynes said. “Our goal is to get people through messaging and education and proactive enforcement to understand that those bad decisions are costing lives.”

Meanwhile, traffic crash deaths in the Green Mountain State have slightly decreased so far this year.

Through Dec. 20 of last year, New Hampshire reported 93 crashes that resulted in 97 fatalities. So far this year, there have been 128 crashes that have resulted in 142 fatalities. The most recent fatal crash in the state happened on Thursday at the intersection of North Main Street and Belknap Avenue in Newport.

Virginia Schendler, 58, of Brooklyn, N.Y., died in the crash, and her 19-year-old son, Benjamin Schendler, who was driving, suffered minor injuries, according to a Newport police news release.

A preliminary investigation indicates Benjamin Schendler failed to yield before pulling out of Park Street and entering North Main Street, causing a collision with a vehicle driven by Betty Sipple, 72, of Acworth, N.H. She and her passenger, Jane Stickney, 67, of Unity, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the crash, the release said.

A review of the fatal crashes in New Hampshire this year shows that only 9 percent of the deaths resulted from circumstances beyond the drivers’ control — a medical condition affecting the driver, a mechanical malfunction or a collision caused by an animal in the road, Haynes said.

“Ninety-one percent of those deaths are from people making a wrong or poor decision,” Haynes said.

Among those poor decisions are driving impaired; crossing over the centerline, which often is an indicator of distracted driving; and failing to yield to an oncoming vehicle, he said.

Haynes said he isn’t sure why traffic fatalities have increased so significantly in Grafton and Sullivan counties this year. It is something state officials will look into, he said.

Last year, five people died in fatal crashes in Grafton County; so far this year, 13 people have died. In Sullivan County last year, three people died in crashes, while seven have died this year, according to state statistics. In 2016 in Sullivan County, the state recorded five traffic crash deaths.

This year isn’t the deadliest on record.

In 2004, 171 people died in crashes in the Granite State.

In Vermont, traffic crash deaths appear to have decreased slightly this year by about 5 percent. Sixty-five people died in 58 crashes in Vermont in 2018. Last year, Vermont reported 68 deaths in 62 crashes.

AAA is estimating that more than one-third of Americans will travel for the Christmas holiday, including nearly 5 million in New England alone.

Haynes urged drivers this holiday season to buckle up, slow down, pay attention, leave extra travel time and use a designated driver.

“We are not telling you how to drive; we are just asking you to make the right choice,” Haynes said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.