Arizona Traffic Fatalities Rose to a 15-Year High in 2021

The Arizona Department of Public Transportation (ADOT) unveiled its Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report (AMVCF) Wednesday, which showed that traffic fatalities rose for a second consecutive year in 2021, reaching a 15-year peak.

“The 2021 report shows an increase in all categories in terms of number of crashes, injuries and fatalities over 2020 as more people began to travel once again to work, school and other places. A month-by-month breakdown in the crash report shows an overall increase in the number of crashes as the year went on, with October being the peak month for crashes,” according to ADOT.

The Arizona Sun Times reached out to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety but did not receive comment before publishing.

In the AMVCF, ADOT revealed that in 2021, a total of 1,180 traffic fatalities occurred, which is a 12 percent increase compared to 1,054 in 2020. The overall number of crashes increased by 22 percent in 2021, with 121,345 reported collisions. There were nearly six million licensed drivers on the road in 2021. ADOT reported that people drove 8.1 billion more miles in 2021 than in 2020.

Crashes, injuries, and fatalities happened in every county of the state. Most counties averaged around 40 deaths, with Greenlee seeing the least at only one. However, Maricopa County made up over half of the total fatalities at 594. The majority of crashes occurred on city streets and country roads, while 32 percent happened on state highways.

One of the highest causes of vehicle fatality was speeding, ending the lives of 359 people. ADOT shared that speeding is the most common driver violation and often results in rear-end crashes. Another cause was alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medicine or marijuana impairment, which resulted in 383 deaths. The third major cause was driving without a seat belt, and while nine out of 10 Arizonans reportedly wear one regularly, a quarter of those who died were not wearing a belt at the time. Motorcycle fatalities increased slightly in 2021, but at least 69 of the 160 deaths occurred when the driver was not wearing a helmet. Bicycle deaths also rose, and 92 percent occurred in urban areas, primarily during the day. Over 250 pedestrians were killed by a vehicle last year, mostly at night, when motorists typically drive faster.

Furthermore, in response to rising traffic fatalities, the Phoenix City Council approved the “Vision Zero Road Safety Action Plan,” which will allocate $10 million in annual funding to improve road safety. This plan aims to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Phoenix to zero by 2050. The city hopes to accomplish this by adopting the vision zero philosophy, which states that human mistakes are inevitable, but deadly crashes do not have to be. The road system and policies should reflect this human error to avoid incidents resulting in death.

The plan outlined five focus areas that the city will work to address. The first involves creating a dashboard with crash data available to city staff. Others include improving pedestrian walkways and streetlights in an attempt to lower civilian-involved collisions.

According to the city, the $10 million will come from the city’s general fund, Transportation 2050, and the Highway User Revenue Fund.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].




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