PHOENIX – Driver behavior continues to be the leading factor in traffic fatalities and 1,000 of our neighbors, coworkers, friends and family members died needlessly on Arizona’s city, county, state and reservation roadways in 2017. That’s the major takeaway from the 2017 Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report, which was released today.
Traffic deaths in Arizona rose for the third straight year, climbing to 1,000 in 2017, and, yet again, impairment, speeding and reckless driving, and failure to wear a seat belt are leading factors in traffic fatalities. Alcohol, prescription medication or illegal drugs played a role in 43 percent of traffic deaths in Arizona last year.
“These are people – 1,000 people who are no longer with us – that will be missed by mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Missed by family, friends and those who love them,” said Arizona Department of Transportation director John Halikowski. “Every driver holds the key in their hand that can save a life if they make the right choices. Choose not to speed. Choose not to drive drunk or on drugs. Choose life for yourself and others sharing the road with you. Make a promise to yourself to be a safer driver. Save a life and make someone’s day!”
ADOT produces the annual Crash Facts Report, which is a compilation of traffic crash reports provided to ADOT by law enforcement agencies around the state. The report reflects crash data for all Arizona roadways, including city streets, county roads and state highways.
Though traffic fatalities increased from 2016 to 2017, which follows a national trend, the total number of people injured in crashes (55,474) decreased from last year and the total number of crashes, statistically, stayed flat – in Arizona there were 127,064 crashes in 2017 and 127,039 in 2016. According to the data, speeding and reckless driving was the most common driver violation in all collisions and 285 people were killed in speed-related crashes.
Pedestrians account for nearly a quarter of the 1,000 killed in vehicle crashes. Pedestrian-related fatalities have climbed from 155 in 2014 to 226 in 2017. Most pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas on city streets and county roads. Pedestrians should cross streets only at marked crosswalks where drivers expect to see them.
The rising number of traffic fatalities can’t be solved by state agencies alone – 69 percent of crashes occur on roads other than state highways. In fact, real change must begin in the driver’s seat because driver behavior is a factor in more than 90 percent of crashes.
“As the data shows, traffic fatalities are largely a driver issue,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “The rising number of fatalities is not a highway issue or a vehicle issue. It is a driver issue caused by impairment, speeding and reckless driving, and a number of factors, including inattention. Even with some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, drunk driving still happens in Arizona. Impaired driving must become socially unacceptable."
The number of people killed not wearing seat belts fell for the third year in a row – from 258 in 2015, 250 in 2016 and 230 in 2017 – but unbuckled occupants still account for nearly a quarter of all traffic fatalities.
Officially, there were 9,693 drivers involved in “distracted driving behavior” that were involved in collisions, including 33 fatal crashes. However, it is widely accepted that number of crashes caused by distracted drivers is much higher than reported because distracted drivers that cause crashes typically don’t admit to the act or died in the crash.
“The rise in fatalities on Arizona roads is an ongoing trend that should concern everyone,” said Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. “Decisions made by drivers to get behind the wheel impaired, drive distracted, and failure to buckle up are plaguing Arizona roadways and took the lives of 1,000 people last year alone. Law enforcement continues to target distracted and impaired drivers, but frankly, we cannot be everywhere. Highway safety is everyone’s responsibility and the message is clear: if drivers put their complete focus on driving the life they save could be their own.”
The 2017 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is available at azdot.gov/CrashFacts.