There is a deadly trend developing on Connecticut’s roadways. Recent data from the Department of Transportation shows traffic-related deaths in the state are up nearly 16% from a year ago.
It’s a tragic trend as motor vehicle-related deaths are climbing toward a record high.
“Our year-to-date trends are around 30 to 40 fatalities higher than they have been, probably in the past 20 to 30 years,” said Eric Jackson, director of the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center (CTSRC) at the University of Connecticut.
Jackson said during the pandemic, with fewer cars on the road, speeds began to escalate into the 80 and 90 mile per hour range. Those higher speeds, according to motorists we spoke with Tuesday, still exist on some roadways.
“Even if I am going a little bit more than the speed limit, there’s always somebody going much faster than me,” said Natalie Spadaccino of Middletown.
According to DOT data, there has a been a steady increase in motor vehicle-related deaths. On November 1, 2019 there were 207 fatalities for the year. It jumped to 245 by the same date in 2020 and was at 283 on November 1 of this year.
The most motor vehicle-related deaths recorded in a single year in Connecticut was 317 in 2000.
Connecticut State Police said there are many factors affecting drivers.
“Drivers are looking at their phone. They’re speeding to get to their destination. They’re not changing lanes safely. That creates the perfect storm,” said Sgt. Dawn Pagan.
Jackson said there is also another factor; the lingering effects of the pandemic.
“If somebody cut you off on the roadway, all of a sudden people are becoming enraged and angered by that as opposed to the past when they maybe let it go,” he said.
Spadaccino said she has witnessed road rage. She said a motorist who was unhappy with her threw a slice of pizza at her windshield.
“Well, I was grateful it wasn’t a brick,” she said.
Whether it’s drivers on edge or another factor, the state is seeing a startling spike.
According to data collected by the CTSRC fatalities have included 176 drivers and passengers, 51 pedestrians, two bicyclists and 54 motorcyclists
State Police said driving over the speed limit, distracted or impaired significantly increases the danger on the roadways.
“You are essentially rolling the dice. It becomes high-risk driving,” said Pagan.