York County crash fatalities reach 10-year high, PennDOT says

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Fatal vehicle crashes

Forty-nine people died in vehicle crashes in York County last year — the highest number in a decade, according to PennDOT data.

The figures, released Thursday, show that crash fatalities statewide in 2018 increased slightly from the previous year — from 1,137 in 2017 to 1,190 last year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

PennDOT reported there were 38 crash fatalities in York County in 2017. In 2016, there were 39, and in 2015 there were 40.

Barbara Zortman, director of the Center for Traffic Safety, said there's a population increase both nationwide and locally and that more drivers on the road mean more crashes.

"York County is one of the ... fastest-growing counties in the state," Zortman said. U.S. Census data ranks York County as the 11th fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania.

Zortman also noted that there's a growing number of older drivers on the road in the state and that 2018 was an extremely wet year, increasing the number of days roads were wet and slick. Teen drivers' inexperience is also a regular factor in crashes, she said.

"We look at all the different variables that go into everyone sharing the road safely," Zortman said.

The numbers: Of York County's 49 fatalities last year, 18 involved alcohol, with drunken drivers accounting for 15 of those 18 fatalities, according to PennDOT.

In 2017, 13 drunken drivers were killed in York County crashes, up from 11 in 2016, according to the data.

Sixteen people died in impaired-driving crashes — typically drug-related — in York County last year, up from 13 each in 2017 and 2016, according to PennDOT. Last year's number is still lower than 2015's 18 impaired-driving fatalities.

One person died in a distracted-driving crash in York County in 2018, down from five each in 2017 and 2016, according to PennDOT.

Heavy trucks: One of the biggest increases in last year's fatal York County crashes were those involving heavy or large trucks, according to the data.

In 2018, 13 people died in York County crashes involving large trucks. Three people died in large-truck crashes in 2017, and three in 2016.

Last year's figure  is higher than any year going back to 1999, according to the crash data, which indicates the next highest number of deaths was nine, in 2002 and 2007.

Seven of York County's 49 crash fatalities last year involved motorcycles, according to the data.

Fourteen of the people killed in crashes last year weren't wearing seat belts, according to PennDOT. That's a jump from eight in 2017 and 10 in 2016.

Statewide, the number of crash fatalities involving distracted drivers stayed much the same as previous year, data shows. There were 65 such deaths in 2018, 63 in 2017; and 69 in 2016.

Impairment on the rise: The numbers fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol increased to 355, up from 335 in 2017, according to PennDOT.

Statewide, the number of pedestrian deaths rose as well, to 201 last year. In 2017, there were 150, according to PennDOT.

More than $470 million in federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds have been spent on 356 safety projects since 2014, according to PennDOT, and $50 million in state funding has been spent on about 3,000 "low-cost safety improvements," which include edge-line rumble strips, pavement markings and center lines.

To see PennDOT's full statewide fatality statistics, which can be broken down by county, visit www.crashinfo.penndot.gov.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.