Wednesday, April 21, 2021

2020 Pennsylvania Traffic Fatalities Second Lowest on Record


The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced Tuesday that in 2020, statewide traffic deaths increased to 1,129 from the record low of 1,059 in 2019. 

Last year was the second-lowest number of highway fatalities recorded and overall fatalities continue to trend downward.

"Even one life lost is one too many, and Pennsylvania is committed to moving toward zero deaths," said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. "Our biggest priority continues to be safe travel regardless of the mode you use, and we continue to work with our partners to decrease fatalities through educational outreach, the latest innovations, effective enforcement and low-cost safety improvements."

Pennsylvania roadway deaths were up about 6 percent in 2020 despite an approximate 20 percent reduction in traffic counts statewide last year when compared to 2019. This increase is in line with a recently released report from the National Safety Council, showing preliminary data estimates national motor-vehicle deaths are up 8 percent.

"We cannot definitively say why fatalities increased during the COVID-19 pandemic even though it certainly had an impact on traffic volumes statewide," said Gramian. "Over the long term, traffic fatalities are still trending down, but we must continue to work together to make our roads safer for all drivers.

"Motorists are our most important partners in road safety – we can only get to zero fatalities with your help. We urge all Pennsylvanians to always wear their seat belts, never drive impaired or distracted, and always follow the speed limit."

While the overall number of highway deaths increased last year, decreases in fatalities were noted in crashes involving drivers aged 65 or older, head on/opposite direction side swipes, crashes involving distracted drivers, and pedestrian crashes. Fatalities in drivers 65 years old or older dropped from 281 in 2019 to 243 in 2020. Head on crashes/opposite direction side swipe fatalities also decreased from 158 in 2019 to 128 last year. There were 47 fatalities in 2020 crashes involving distracted drivers compared to 62 in 2019.

Additionally, the year-to-year longer-term trends also continue to decrease. For example, compared to 2016, there were 59 fewer total traffic deaths, 86 fewer deaths in lane departure crashes, and 60 fewer fatalities involving unrestrained occupants in crashes.

The following crash types saw fatality increases in 2020:
  • Crashes involving single vehicle run-off-the-road – 506 fatalities, up from 447 in 2019;
  • Crashes involving local roads – 224 fatalities, up from 186 in 2019;
  • Crashes involving motorcycles – 217 fatalities, up from 174 in 2019; and
  • Crashes involving speeding – 188 fatalities, up from 162 in 2019.
According to national data, over 90 percent of crashes are caused by driver behavior. For this reason, PennDOT focuses on data trends to drive enforcement and education improvements and invests $18 million annually in federal grant funds statewide to support these behavioral safety programs.

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