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Traffic fatalities rise nationally; Pennsylvania bucks trend

John Joyce
505-5432/@JohnJoyceYD
  • AP: The number of traffic-related deaths are up nationally for the first half of 2016, according to information from the National Safety Council.
  • PennDOT said the state's numbers won't be tallied until year's end but are likely on par with recent years.
  • The number of traffic-related deaths were lowest on record in Pennsylvania in 2014.

Traffic fatalities are up nationally compared to this point a year ago, according to a recent Associated Press report. However, in Pennsylvania the number of traffic-related deaths were the lowest on record in 2014, and preliminary data suggests this year's numbers will fall close within that range.

The national indicators estimate about 19,100 people have been killed on the nation's roads through the first six months of 2016. Another 2.2 million people were seriously injured in that span, the AP report noted.

Crash

The AP story, attributing its information to the National Safety Council, said the number of traffic fatalities from January through June in 2016 were up 9 percent from the previous year, approaching what one official called a "crisis level."

And while states such as Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, California and others have seen increases, Hawaii, Montana, Nebraska, South and North Dakota and Wyoming also saw decreases.

Greg Penny, community relations coordinator for the state Department of Transportation, said Pennsylvania likely falls somewhere in the middle.

PennDOT recorded 1,200 fatalities in 2015 statewide, the second-lowest recorded number of traffic deaths since Pennsylvania began tracking the numbers in 1928. That year, the state saw 2,080 deaths. The record low came just two years ago with 1,195 fatalities in 2014.

In York County, there were 45 traffic-crash deaths in 2014 and 40 last year, according to the 2015 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics.

Pennsylvania's 2016 figures won't be compiled until the end of the year, Penny said.

As for why fatal crashes are on the rise nationally, Pennsylvania's Transportation Department spokesman has a theory.

"There is more traffic. There are more people on the road today because of lower gas prices," he said, reiterating the NSC assertion that a rebounding economy and lower gas prices are resulting in Americans returning to the highways for travel. Those numbers had been drastically reduced during and immediately after the Great Recession in 2008, according to transportation experts.

"I don't think we saw it right away, but there was a lot of decline after the economic implosion of 2008," Penny said.

In 2008, the national number of traffic-related deaths exceeded 37,000, a number not approached again until 2015, when more than 35,000 deaths were logged.

If this year's pace continues at the national level, the number of deaths could break 40,000, the AP report said.

Penny, who again cautioned that his numbers were preliminary, said he expects the total number of traffic-related deaths this year to be similar to 2014 and 2015.

— Reach John Joyce atjjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD