Road deaths in Massachusetts hit an 11-year high in 2021, and current trends indicate that the number of road deaths in 2022 could reach even higher, the State House News Service reported Wednesday.
The state Department of Transportation found, according to preliminary data, that there were 172 road deaths in Massachusetts from January 1 to June 15 of this year, the SHNS reported. That’s 10 more deaths than in the same period last year.
The actual number could be even higher. SHNS reported that a MassDOT spokesperson said the preliminary count likely underestimates the number of deaths because many police investigations into the deaths are still ongoing.
“In 2021, Massachusetts unfortunately had over 400 road deaths. This is the highest figure in over 11 years and a 22% increase from 2020,” Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said during a MassDOT board meeting on Wednesday.
SHNS reported that state transportation and public safety officials have been trying to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to wear seat belts.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wearing a seat belt in a car reduces the risk of fatal injuries by 45% and reduces the risk of moderate to critical injuries by 50%. For trucks, these numbers increase to 60% and 65%, respectively.
But MassDOT board member Dean Mazzarella believes officials should be doing more, SHNS reported. Mazzarella said at the end of Wednesday’s meeting that he sees people driving at 90 and 100 miles per hour and changing lanes, SHNS reported.
“The speeds people are traveling at and the aggressiveness – and I realize that distracted driving is responsible for a lot of accidents – but I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m not sure it’s a result of the pandemic,” Mazzarella said.
Speed is a significant factor in the severity of injuries in car accidents. A 2019 EMC Insurance article said that studies show that the risk of dying in a car accident increases exponentially as the driver’s speed increases.
“For every 10 mph increased speed, the risk of dying in a crash doubles,” the article says. “In practical terms, increasing driving speed from 60 mph to 80 mph increases the risk of a fatal accident by 4 times.”
SHNS reported that Tesler told Mazzarella that his concerns about driver speeding are reflected in MassDOT’s road fatality data.
“We are exploring all possible avenues to raise awareness, change behavior and remind drivers,” he said.
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