Unusually High Number of Car Crashes Have Accumulated in Alaska in 2011

Unusually High Number of Car Crashes Have Accumulated in Alaska in 2011  The Alaska Department of Public Safety released report on Tuesday July 26 on the spate of traffic deaths in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Six people have died, including two children. In the same period in 2009 and 2010, there were far fewer car-crash related fatalities. So far in 2011, there have been 40 fatalities overall, which is a dozen more than the figures marked at the same time in the last two years.

According to the press release from Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Marc Luiken, "preliminary reports of the 2011 traffic fatalities show that unsafe speed played a role in 26 percent, driver alcohol was suspected in 20 percent and driver inattention was involved in 11 percent" of crashes.

On Monday, July 25, a woman from Kenai, Alaska was killed in car accident in Ninilchik. Driving a 2002 GMC Envoy, she rear-ended a 2001 Ford pickup truck, reports Homer News.

Fifty-six-year-old Marcia Toth, the driver of the Envoy, crashed into 39-year-old Shane Benya of Homer in her pickup. Benya was paused behind a 2003 Cadillac Escalade driven by Homer's 21-year-old Ian Tolva as he waited to turn into the Ninilchik General Store's driveway.

Officials reported Toth was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Her three passengers, including Autumn Beaujean, a 19-month-old, were not injured in the crash. As the investigation went on, the highway was closed and traffic was diverted.

Another car crash victim making headlines is North Dakota's Senate majority leader, Bob Stenehjem, a 59-year-old. Reuters reports that he was driving on Monday on the Sterling Highway, back from a fishing trip, when his car veered off the road and crashed. He was transported to a Soldotna, Alaska hospital, 70 miles southwest of Anchorage. His wife, Kathy, told Reuters that he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The cause of the single-car accident is still under investigation, according to Megan Peters, Alaska state police spokeswoman. The man's wife Kathy also told Reuters that her husband's heart problem history may have been a factor. He also may have fallen asleep at the wheel after his exhausting night halibut fishing trip, near Homer, Alaska, according to the news report.

One of the passengers is listed in critical condition. The politician's son Rob was in the car, and suffered minor injuries and his grandson was unhurt.

KTUU, a local television outlet, reports on a car crash that injured teenagers in Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday morning. One was injured critically. Sixteen-year-old Ciara Akers, 18-year-old Jonathan Parsons, 18-year-old Brendan Weaver-Rocha and 17-year-old Tyler Schaf all were the passengers in the Ford sedan, driven by 18-year-old Jesse Contreras, according to Alaska Police Department spokesperson Lieutenant Dave Parker.

Around 6:10 A.M., emergency crews were summoned to the crash site. The Ford, moving southbound on Aurora Borealis Road, ran off the road near the Glenn Highway's North Birchwood exit. The car then tumbled down a fifteen-foot embankment. It ended by flipping onto its roof, according to the KTUU report.

Tyler Schaf, one of the passengers, ended in critical condition in the hospital. He received emergency surgery. Parsons did not need medical treatment, but the rest of the car passengers were taken to local hospitals via ambulance, according to the news outlet.

The Department of Public Safety's press release also urged drivers to avoid the pitfalls of distracted driving, advising, "Your attention should be focused on the road around you and the immediate task of operating your vehicle. You should also pay careful attention to the driving intentions of other drivers around you. In other words, drive defensively."