Deadly car crashes rising in Columbus, nationwide
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.
- That's up 22%, from 58 crashes in 2020.
- The most recent was just a week ago.
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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