HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced 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.
In addition to behavioral safety, PennDOT focuses on infrastructure improvements to roadways in an effort to further reduce fatalities and serious injuries. Approximately $477 million in Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds has been invested in 444 unique safety projects from 2015 to 2019. During that same timeframe, another $50 million of state funds was invested in low-cost safety improvements at approximately 3,000 locations. Examples of low-cost safety countermeasures include centerline and edge-line rumble strips and signing and pavement markings.
For more information on reportable crash data, visit PennDOT’s Pennsylvania Crash Information Tool (PCIT) website, www.crashinfo.penndot.gov. Under “Crash Downloads,” the “Reportable Crash Fatality Statistics” spreadsheet is updated with 2020 fatalities; 2020 crash statistics and suspected serious injury statistics are not yet available. The “Custom Query Tool” and additional crash downloads will be available later this month.
For more information on the department’s highway safety initiatives, visit PennDOT.gov/safety.
PennDOT’s media center offers resources for safety organizations, community groups, or others who share safety information with their stakeholders. Social-media-sized graphics highlighting topics such as seat belts, impaired driving and distracted driving can be found online at www.PennDOT.gov in the “Media Center” under the “About Us” footer.
Subscribe to statewide PennDOT news and traffic alerts at www.penndot.gov/news or choose a region under “Regional Offices.” Information about the state’s infrastructure and results the department is delivering for Pennsylvanians can be found at www.penndot.gov/results. Find PennDOT’s planned and active construction projects at www.projects.penndot.gov.
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