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Roadway deaths are way up in Mass., new report says

Roadway deaths in Massachusetts increased by 20%, compared to an average of 9% across the country.

If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of headlines mentioning roadway deaths in the last year or so, your keen observation skills have picked up on a sad finding that we now know is supported by data.

A new report from QuoteWizard, a website that helps customers compare insurance rates, found that traffic fatalities in Massachusetts increased by a whopping 20% between 2021 and 2020.

That’s more than double the percent increase for the nation, which was 9% year over year. Massachusetts had the fourth-highest increase in traffic fatalities between 2020 and 2021.

Certain populations experienced greater increases

Notably, the report said, roadway deaths did not increase proportionally across all demographics from 2020 to 2021.

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The number of roadway fatalities increased slightly more among women than men, and while traffic deaths increased by only 7% among people 16 to 24 and 55 to 64, they increased about 15% among people 35 to 44 and people over 65.

But by far the most dramatic demographic difference found in the report was between people of different races.

While traffic deaths among white people increased only 4% from 2020 to 2021, roadway fatalities among Black people increased a stark 23%. American Indians and Asian and Pacific Islanders also experienced similar increases.

Why roadway deaths increased so much in 2021

According to the report, the increase in traffic fatalities is closely tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, as 2020 roadway deaths reached a 13-year high.

One reason experts believe the pandemic led to so many more traffic deaths is that with fewer people on the road, drivers were more likely to speed.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is one of the most deadly things drivers can do. It makes it harder to stop in time, it makes you more likely to lose control of your car, and the faster the car is going at the time of the crash, the more severe resulting injuries will be.

While speeding-related statistics are not yet available for 2021, overall, the number of speeding-related deaths increased 11% in 2020 for the country as a whole, even while the total number of miles driven went down. They also accounted for nearly a third of all traffic deaths.

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According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, it was not just the lack of cars on the road that may have led to more speeding during the pandemic.

One psychologist suggested that “under stressful circumstances, ‘people are going to do things that might be considered risky or out of character to feel good, to feel alive.'”

The article also said that in some places, police presence on the roadways decreased, leading to more people being willing to speed.

Stress caused by the pandemic may also have been a factor, the article said. It may have led to more fatigued or distracted drivers, both of which are more dangerous drivers.

The federal government has a plan to fix this problem

Earlier this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the increase in roadway deaths “a crisis on America’s roadways,” and unveiled his department’s plan to make roads safer.

The plan has five prongs: educating people on the dangers of risky driving behaviors, improving roads to make them more safe, implementing new safety standards for newly manufactured cars, decreasing speed limits on dangerous roadways, and improving emergency medical care.

Still, it could be years before the impact of the Biden Administration’s new road safety plan sets in.

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In 2022, more people are back on the road as businesses fully reopen again, but it remains to be seen whether or not the upward trend in roadways deaths will continue.

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