INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A national study looked at fatal crashes in the first nine months of 2020, comparing them to the same time period in 2021.
From January to September of 2021, Indiana lost 699 people to fatal crashes, a 9% percent increase in a year.
The numbers are not showing signs of slowing down, according a study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although the COVID-19 pandemic cut the number of daily trips by 42%, they became more deadly across the country.
The United States had more than 38,000 deaths in traffic crashes in 2020, the largest number of fatalities since 2007.
Indiana recorded 639 deaths in crashes in the first nine months of 2020, which happened when people were working and learning from home and the streets were mostly empty.
An agency that keeps count says the rise in Indiana traffic deaths is continuing: For the first two months of 2022, Indiana was 22 fatalities ahead of same time period as 2019.
The study looked at traffic fatalities across the nation. Three of Indiana’s neighbors — Michigan and Ohio and Illinois — saw double digit increases in fatal crashes, with Illinois leading with an 18% increase. Kentucky was one of the few states in the national report that recorded a decrease of 3%.
I-Team 8 asked Rob Duckworth, the director of the traffic safety office at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, what’s driving Indiana’s increase in fatal crashes.
“So, we are seeing increases from some of the same problems that we faced in the past, just at larger levels. If folks would wear their seat belts and buckle up, slow down … basically, we have a slogan here at CJI that says, ‘Click it to live it, it is your life.’”
He said Indiana could reduce traffic fatalities by 40% if Indiana drivers would ease up on the accelerators and wear seat belts. “For the first time in more than decades, we saw a slippage in the seat-belt use during the survey. So, we know we are seeing seat belts less often. We need to get that back up to where we are having a high seat-belt usage rate and that will help us save lives on Indiana roadways.”
Duckworth also says distracted driving, driving under the influence, and speeding contribute to the increase in fatal accidents in Indiana and the rest of the country.
The traffic director said, “We have got to battle that on another side with impaired driving, both multisubstance, so drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and we still have the alcohol-impaired driving that we are continuing to battle as well.”