BOSTON GLOBE – More people were killed on Massachusetts roadways in 2021 than in any other year since 2007, continuing an alarming spike in road deaths across the state since the pandemic began.
As of Sunday, the state had counted 414 drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes last year, a sharp increase from the 343 deaths recorded in 2020, according to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation database that tracks traffic fatalities.
The statistics are preliminary, a spokeswoman for MassDOT said, and likely to tick up slightly as law enforcement agencies complete their final tallies and submit them to the state.
Still, the preliminary data indicate a trend that began in 2020 as more drivers traveled at excessive speeds on roads that had fewer vehicles due to the pandemic, worsened last year, even as traffic levels surged back.
Speeding and a decrease in seat-belt usage appear to be leading factors, the MassDOT spokeswoman said.
“Something has changed during the pandemic in the way some of us think about driving. We are losing too many people to these preventable crashes.”
Emily Stein, president of the Safe Roads Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes safe driving, said the statistics pointed to some “really concerning behavior.”
Before 2020, fatal crashes had leveled off from highs reached in the 1990s and mid-2000s, when more than 400 people died in Massachusetts traffic incidents 14 years running, according to the most recently available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
After 2007, when 434 fatalities were recorded in the state, traffic-related deaths dipped into the mid- to low-300s, according to the NHTSA data.
The NHTSA tracks traffic fatalities nationally and publishes data specific to each state when single year counts are complete.
The MassDOT dashboard breaks down the state’s traffic data more specifically and tracks fatal crashes in real-time, meaning the data are sometimes subject to change … read more [subscription may be required]