Traffic fatalities hit 85-year low in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania traffic fatalities in 2013 dropped to their lowest levels since officials started keeping records in 1928, fueled in part by safer cars, PennDOT officials and industry groups said on Tuesday.
PennDOT said 1,208 people died in traffic accidents, down from 1,310 in 2012. Allegheny County recorded 65 traffic fatalities, down from 67, and Westmoreland County had 29 fatalities, down from 55.
“If you look at the national trend over time, the traffic fatality rate based on miles driven is at historic lows,” said Russ Rader, senior vice president for the Arlington, Va.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Vehicles are much safer now than they were 10 or 15 years ago. As the fleet turns over, people are trading in older vehicles for newer ones, making a big leap in safety.”
Rader pointed to better design, features such as electronic stability control, and side air bags, which were available only in expensive luxury cars in the late 1990s but have become standard in all cars.
“People are walking away from crashes today that would have killed them 15 years ago,” Rader said.
PennDOT officials said the number of people who died not wearing seat belts declined, as did speed-related fatalities and the number of single-vehicle crashes in which operators drove off roads.
Highway deaths in which drivers had been drinking fell from 377 in 2012 to 342.
Carol Ronis, spokeswoman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, credited law enforcement crackdowns on drunken drivers.
“It's great to see they're reporting lower numbers,” Ronis said. “Law enforcement and highly-visible crackdowns are great countermeasures and may have been one of the reasons (for the decline). MADD would like to see ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers.”
Not all categories of driving deaths decreased in 2013.
Distracted-driving deaths, which include texting while driving, increased to 64 statewide from 57 in 2012. Deaths involving drivers over age 75 in head-on or opposite-direction sideswipe crashes also increased.
PennDOT officials said they invested $50 million over the past five years for road safety improvements at 4,000 locations, including centerline and edge-line rumble strips. PennDOT spends $20 million annually for safety education and enforcement.
“Our efforts cannot reach their potential if drivers refuse to do their part by observing traffic laws and always using common sense,” PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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