SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Car crashes are killing more and more people since the start of the pandemic.
The 22News I-Team examined crash data for western Massachusetts. Nationally, deaths from crashes rose by nearly 7% from 2019 to 2020, then by more than 10% from 2020 to 2021.
A 2020 survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who drove more than usual during the pandemic were more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors, including texting, running red lights, aggressive driving, and not wearing a seat belt. Drivers in western Massachusetts are noticing more dangerous driving, especially since the start of the pandemic.
“It has worsened,” said Mark Gosselin of Chicopee.
“It’s drastically gotten worse,” Steven Nichols agreed.
Open highways during the pandemic also may have tempted drivers to go faster.
“People are in a rush to get nowhere fast,” said Nichols. “They don’t adhere to the road signage. They don’t adhere to the weather. They’d rather blame the roads for their accidents. They don’t take responsibility for themselves or their own driving.”
Drivers told the 22News I-Team that I-91 through downtown Springfield is the stretch of road they consider the most dangerous.
“The Memorial Bridge, the South End of Springfield. It’s very congested in that area,” said Gosselin. “The curve is a bad area.”
According to data from MassDOT, there were about 642 crashes on I-91 in 2016. None of them were deadly. In 2021, there were about 715 crashes and two were deadly. Impaired or distracted driving and speeding are the most common factors in deadly crashes, according to AAA.
“Take your time,” said Nichols. “You’ve got your kids on the road, you’ve got other people’s kids on the road. Just take your time getting there.”
The Federal Transportation Department set up a $5 billion program this year to prevent roadway deaths and injuries by offering grants for projects that lower speed limits or improve road design. Those are things like adding speed bumps, Making roads narrower, or installing roundabouts.