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MONTPELIER >> Highway fatalities to date on Vermont roads have nearly doubled compared to this time last year, with the majority of fatal crashes involving non-use or improper seatbelt usage, speeding, and/or driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Deaths on Vermont roads increased by 68 percent in the first six months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2015. The United States lost over 35,000 lives on our roadways in 2015 — 57 of those were in Vermont. To date this year, 40 people have died.

"Last year we had historically low numbers through the second quarter, but then we had a few above average months in a row," said Bruce Nyquist, Director of the Office of Highway Safety for VTrans. "We must continue to focus on impaired driving, speed, distracted driving and occupant protection, while also ensuring that our vulnerable users, motorcyclists and work zones are safe."

Of the reported motor vehicle highway fatalities in Vermont so far this year, 64 percent of occupants were unbelted, compared to 47 percent who were unbelted in 2015.

Impairment by alcohol, drugs or both was a contributing factor in almost half of this year's fatal crashes in Vermont — a trend that matches that of 2015.

Aggressive driving, speed and distracted driving have also factored into the number of lives lost on Vermont roads, with speed being a suspected factor in 18 highway fatalities so far this year.

"In promoting the 'Toward Zero Deaths' philosophy, we believe that one death on Vermont roads is too many," said Scott Davidson, Highway Safety Program Chief for the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program. "We are committed to our critical role to ensure safe travel on Vermont's roadways by promoting safe driving behavior."

VTrans works closely with state police, county sheriff's departments and municipal police departments, who will be increasing efforts to enforce impaired driving over Labor Day Weekend as part of their Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

During the week of Aug. 28 to Sept. 3, the Brattleboro Police Department will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint within the town of Brattleboro. An aggressive effort will be made to identify impaired drivers on our highways. Officers will be also enforcing seatbelt, child restraint and other motor vehicle laws during this checkpoint.

Aug. 25

• At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 26, the Vermont State Police responded to the report of a burglary to residence on North Pond Road in Marlboro. The burglary occurred on Aug. 25 sometime during the daytime hours when nobody was home. A 40-inch LED Samsung TV was stolen as well as jewelry. Among the stolen jewelry was a women's Hinsdale, N.H., class ring that was gold with a blue stone and a rough black pearl that was not in a setting. Anyone who might have information is urged to contact Corporal Paul Dean at 802-722-4600.

• Also on Aug. 25, the Vermont State Police responded to the report of a burglary on Ames Hill Road in the town of Marlboro. An investigation revealed that between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. someone entered the home and stole two electric guitars. If anyone observed any suspicious activity in the area, please contact Trooper Soule at 802-722-4600.

Aug. 26

• At 5:30 a.m., the Vermont State Police responded to Route 5 in Westminster for the report of a single vehicle accident. Troopers determined Maureen A. Massucco, 65, of Bellows Falls, was traveling south just north of Durand Automotive when a group of deer entered the roadway. Massucco avoided a collision with several of the deer but ultimately struck and killed one. Massucco was wearing her seatbelt and was not injured in this crash. Massucco's vehicle sustained moderate damage to the front end and airbags were deployed. Her vehicle was towed from the scene. The Westminster Fire Department assisted at the scene.

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