Traffic deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017 reached the lowest level since record keeping began in 1928, according to PennDOT.
This coincides with the total number of crashes resulting in at least one death trending down for more than a decade.
In Cumberland County, the data shows that people in 2017 were more likely to suffer serious injuries in a car crash. PennDOT defines a serious injury as an injury other than fatal that results in one or more of the following: severe laceration, significant loss of blood, broken or distorted extremity, crush injuries, suspected skull, chest or abdominal injury, significant burns, unconsciousness or paralysis.
More than 1,130 people were killed in roughly 1,080 crashes statewide in 2017, according to PennDOT. That’s 51 fewer deaths than the year prior. PennDOT said there were significant decreases in impaired-driver, pedestrian and unrestrained fatal crashes.
Fatalities in impaired-driver crashes fell from 341 in 2016 to 246 in 2017, unrestrained fatalities fell from 408 in 2016 to 378, and pedestrian deaths fell from 172 to 150 last year.
Crashes involving serious injury increased more than 50 percent over the previous five-year average in Cumberland County in 2017, PennDOT data shows.
County-level fatalities from automobile crashes are not available. However, the number of crashes in Cumberland County resulting in at least one death increased about 25 percent in 2017 compared to the average of the previous five years, according to PennDOT.
Overall crashes both statewide and in Cumberland County fell about 2 percent in 2017 compared to the previous five years, according to PennDOT data. However, the likelihood a crash would result in a serious injury increased, PennDOT data shows.
Crashes in Cumberland County were more than 25 percent more likely to result in at least one fatality in 2017 compared to the average in the previous five years, according to PennDOT. Drivers involved in a crash in Cumberland County were also more than twice as likely in 2017 to have a serious injury result from a crash than in 2007, PennDOT data showed.
Overall crashes involving any injury were down both statewide and in Cumberland County in 2017, according to PennDOT.
This could mean a portion of the reduction of deaths in traffic crashes are a result of safer automobiles and better emergency care that is keeping motorists alive when involved in a serious crash.
“Pennsylvania has continued to defy national crash trends by steadily decreasing the number of deaths on our roadways,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said in a news release. “Our biggest priority continues to be getting the public to their destinations safely through educational outreach, the latest innovations, effective enforcement and low-cost safety improvements.”
PennDOT spokeswoman Ashley Schoch stressed the need for drivers and passengers to buckle their seat belts, to never drive impaired and to avoid distractions.
Some crash categories saw increases in fatalities. PennDOT said fatalities in crashes involving seniors aged 75 and older increased from 132 in 2016 to 153 last year. Fatal crashes involving running red lights (28 in 2016 to 35 in 2017) and in work zones (16 to 19) also increased.
Schoch credited the drop in deaths to an array of efforts, including increased public awareness campaigns and law enforcement efforts.
“Each crash on our roadways is unique, but national data shows that 94 percent of crashes are caused by human behavior,” Schoch said. “We continue to invest money in all safety focus areas.”
While the overall trend for deaths is going down, the number of crashes involving a serious injury is going up.
Statewide there were about 17 percent more crashes resulting in a serious injury in 2017 than were average any year in the previous five years, according to PennDOT data.