Dec 20, 2021 - News

Deadly car crashes rising in Columbus, nationwide

Fatalities in Columbus crashes
Data: Vision Zero Columbus; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

More people died on Columbus city roadways in 2021 than in any year since 2016, and experts suspect the pandemic is to blame.

Why it matters: As our population grows, our roadways will only get busier. Safe streets are especially essential in a city that doesn't have widespread public transit.

What's happening: Risky behaviors — speeding, forgoing safety belts and using drugs or alcohol — are increasing everywhere, Rob Ritter, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Impaired Driving, said in a recent webinar.

  • In the first half of 2021, the U.S. experienced its largest number of traffic fatalities in the last 15 years, which Ritter called a crisis.
  • It could be a ripple effect of stress and anger for some drivers, while others could be taking advantage of less congested roads and reduced police traffic stops.

Threat level: Columbus' most vulnerable road users — pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists — were victims in more than half of the 71 fatal crashes on city streets in 2021, according to city traffic safety group Vision Zero Columbus.

Of note: The data the group compiled doesn't include highways, only city streets.

  • Overall, Columbus police have responded to 99 fatal crashes in 2021, up from 80 in 2020, according to news releases.
  • Across the state, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reports 1,307 fatalities, up from 1,193.

What's next: Since forming in April with a $10 million city investment, Vision Zero Columbus has been making adjustments to Columbus' busiest corridors.

  • That includes installing crosswalks and encouraging drivers to go slower by extending curbs and converting one-way streets to two-way. An ad campaign is also in the works.

What they're saying: "Some of it is making streets feel less like a race track," Maria Cantrell, the group's coordinator, tells Axios. "But a really big aspect of it is also a culture change."

What we're watching: The project also includes a partnership with Columbus City Schools to implement transportation safety lessons into curriculum at all grade levels next school year.

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