Watford City Mayor Blames Car Crash Fatalities On The State

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Two teenagers from Watford City died this week after their car spun out of control on some ice and crashed into an oncoming semi. The crash was horrific; the deaths tragic. But the Mayor of Watford City has decided to turn their deaths into political capital, blaming the state for their deaths, and that’s unconscionable:

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — The deaths of two Watford City teenagers in a horrific crash has the city’s mayor calling for state officials to do more about traffic problems in the booming western Oil Patch.

“It makes me sick to think of children dying on our roads,” Brent Sanford told The Bismarck Tribune. “It’s a nightmare.” …

Sanford said state Department of Transportation officials have not acted quickly enough to keep up with a dramatic increase in traffic in the oil fields in recent years.

“We’ve got two-lane highways instead of four-lane, and 10,000 trucks going through here a day,” he said. “When are we going to believe this (oil activity) is here to stay?”

That’s an extremely unfair accusation. The sort of infrastructure expansion the mayor is talking about takes years to plan and execute due to requirements for competitive bidding and respect for local property owners. We don’t live in a dictatorship. Our governor cannot issue an edict to expand the road system and see it done.

If anything, state leaders have been moving too quickly throwing more money than is strictly necessary at infrastructure projects to inoculation themselves against this very sort of political opportunism.

And that’s what the mayor is engaging in. Political opportunism. This one accident, tragic as it is, doesn’t provide us any valid data with regard to our roads. We don’t know that a four-lane road would have saved their lives. We don’t know that they would have lived were fewer trucks on the road. This is an anecdote.

What we do know, based on actual data, is that North Dakota roads really aren’t any more dangerous now than they were prior to the oil boom. As we can see from the latest NDDOT crash report, in the context of the increase in the number of vehicles on the road we haven’t seen any significant increases in injuries or fatalities from crashes:

crashesinjuries

Politicizing this car crash is not only in poor taste, it’s not conducive to sound policy which should be set on data not anecdotes.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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