Why are so many people are dying on Mississippi roads? Here’s what you need to know.

Mississippi has the second-largest traffic death rate in the U.S. this year compared to 2021.

Mississippi traffic fatalities for the first six months of 2021 were approximately 380 during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the total so far 341, according to the U.S. Department Of Transportation.

Amir Molan, an assistant professor of civil engineering, who specializes in highway safety and traffic analysis at the University of Mississippi, said last year's numbers were higher for several reason, including that during the pandemic last year, the average speed increased, more people driving under the influence and not wearing seatbelts.

"Mississippi currently ranks second in the highest rate of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled," Molan said. "We need to encourage people to wear their seatbelts and helmets more effectively to decrease traffic fatalities."

Molan said that finding ways to get people to follow laws could help cut down on traffic fatalities.

"We need to inform more drivers on the severity of driving under the influence and the new traffic laws and policies," Molan said. "....The reduction rate for 2022 is great, but we need to find ways to get the number lower."

To protect drivers and prevent future automobile fatalities, the Mississippi Department of Transportation suggests seven tips to help lower the number of traffic accidents.

1. Check your blind spots

Check mirrors every 8-10 seconds to be aware of vehicles entering your blind spots. Additionally, scan ahead on the road for about 15 seconds for traffic issues, work zones and other dangers.

2. Be aware of long stopping distances

Large trucks and buses need the length of up to two football fields to safely stop. Driving too fast for weather or road conditions or failing to slow down for curves or ramps creates risks for rollovers, as well as crashes. Be aware of long stopping distances and make careful wide turns.

3. Always buckle up

Not wearing a seat belt is a key contributing factor to traffic fatalities. Wear your seat belt every time you drive or ride in a vehicle. Seat belts can save lives, reduce injuries and allow drivers to stay inside and control their vehicles in the event of a crash.

4. Drive at a safe speed

The large size and weight of trucks and buses increase driving challenges, including acceleration, braking and maneuverability. Large vehicles accelerate slower uphill and may gain speed quickly downhill. Drive at a safe speed, be aware of your surroundings and never drive above the speed limit.

5. Stay focused and avoid distracted driving

Get enough rest; don’t drive when you’re fatigued, feeling ill or using medications (including over-the-counter medicine) that make you drowsy or dizzy.

6. Always use your signals

Signal and brake early to give other drivers plenty of time to notice your intent. If you must pull off the road, use flashers, reflective triangles and/or road flares to alert approaching drivers.

7. Maintain your vehicle

Make sure pre-trip safety inspections are complete before hitting the road, particularly for tires and brakes. Check that your load is well-balanced and secure, as a shifting load can cause a rollover or loss of control. Loose materials can create road hazards.

Motorists navigate Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss. in this file photo.
Motorists navigate Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss. in this file photo.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Traffic fatalities are down 10 percent in Mississippi.