Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced today that in 2021, statewide traffic deaths increased to 1,230 from 1,129 in 2020.
Pennsylvania roadway deaths were up about 9% in 2021. This increase is in line with a recently released report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, projecting a national increase of approximately 12% in the first nine months of 2021.
"Safety on our roadways is a shared responsibility," said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. "Whether you are a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or bicyclist, we can all do our part to prevent crashes and fatalities. Buckle up every time you are in a vehicle. Always cross the road at an intersection or crosswalk. Always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bicycle. Never drive, ride, or walk impaired or distracted. Let's work together to reduce traffic deaths, because even one fatality is one too many."
Pennsylvania's updated 2022 Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) sets the groundwork for progressing "Toward Zero Deaths" by focusing on both infrastructure-based strategies and behavior change to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes. This is done by implementing roadway designs that emphasize minimizing the risk of injury to all road users, reducing inequities in our transportation network, and using cost-effective, data-driven methods.
The SHSP seeks to substantially reduce traffic related fatalities and serious injuries by addressing several safety focus areas, including three priority emphasis areas: lane departure crashes, impaired driving, and pedestrian safety.
In 2021, fatalities in crashes involving lane departure increased to 596, up from 551 in 2020, accounting for nearly half of highway fatalities across the state. Strategies to combat these crashes are aimed at keeping vehicles on the roadway, within the proper lanes of travel, and include low-cost safety improvements such as centerline or shoulder rumble strips, high friction surface treatments, and cable median barrier. Speeding, impaired, and distracted driving are leading factors in lane departure crashes; therefore, behavioral safety efforts are equally important.
Fatalities in crashes involving impaired driving decreased from 471 in 2020 to 450 in 2021. While impaired driving fatalities have decreased over the last 15 years, they remain high, accounting for more than 35% of fatalities in 2021. Impaired driving consists of a driver under the effect of alcohol, drugs, medication, or any combination of those. Driving while impaired by any substance (legal or illegal) puts all roadway users in harm's way. Pennsylvania takes a proactive approach to combat impaired driving, focused on enforcement and educational programs as a means of prevention, as well as legislative efforts and emerging technologies to aid in detection.
Pedestrian fatalities increased to 182, up from 146 in 2020. Pedestrian fatalities accounted for 15% of fatalities statewide in 2021. Active transportation is on the rise and being promoted across all areas of the state from urban centers to small rural towns, resulting in increased pedestrian activity making it more likely to have collisions with motor vehicles. PennDOT is making accommodations for active transportation a routine and integral element of planning, project development, design, construction, operations, and maintenance.
"Transportation needs to work for everyone – no matter who you are, no matter how you travel," said Gramian. "We continue to work with our partners to decrease fatalities through educational outreach, the latest innovations, effective enforcement, and low-cost safety improvements."
Other crash types with notable increases in fatalities in 2021 include:
- Crashes involving a 16 to 17-year-old driver – 45 fatalities, up from 26 in 2020.
- Crashes involving aggressive driving – 126 fatalities, up from 91 in 2020.
- Motorcyclist fatalities – 226, up from 217 in 2020.
- Crashes involving heavy trucks – 156 fatalities, up from 122 in 2020.
- Unrestrained fatalities – 378, up from 348 in 2020.
According to national data, driver behavior is a factor in more than 90% of crashes. For this reason, PennDOT focuses on data trends to drive enforcement and education improvements and invests approximately $19 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 $450 million in Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds has been invested in 328 unique safety projects from 2017 to 2021. During that same timeframe, another $50 million of state funds was invested in low-cost safety improvements at thousands of locations. Examples of low-cost safety countermeasures include centerline and edge-line rumble strips and high friction surface treatments.
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 2021 fatalities; 2021 crash statistics and suspected serious injury statistics are not yet available. The "Custom Query Tool" and additional crash downloads will be available June 1.
For more information on the department's highway safety initiatives, visit www.penndot.pa.gov/safety.
PennDOT's media center offers social-media-sized graphics highlighting topics such as seat belts, impaired driving, and distracted driving for organizations, community groups, or others who share safety information with their stakeholders.
Subscribe to statewide PennDOT news and traffic alerts at www.penndot.pa.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.pa.gov/results. Find PennDOT's planned and active construction projects at www.projects.penndot.gov.
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MEDIA CONTACT: Jennifer Kuntch, firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-705-1551
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