Oct 7, 2022 - News

Philadelphia traffic deaths dropped last year but remain high

Philadelphia traffic crash fatalities, 2012–2021
Data: PennDOT; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Commuting in Philly may be down, but our roads aren't much safer.

Driving the news: Traffic fatalities in Philly dipped by about 20% last year from an all-time high in 2020, according to the city's annual Vision Zero report released Thursday.

  • Yes, but: 2021 was still the second deadliest year for traffic fatalities in the city since 1999. Meanwhile, serious injury crashes are up more than 9% over last year, per the report.
  • "After a tragic spike in traffic deaths in 2020, we had hoped for a dramatic decrease in 2021. This was not the case," Mike Carroll, the city's deputy managing director for transportation, said in a statement.

The big picture: Philly has one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities among large U.S. cities, second only to Los Angeles.

Between the lines: While Philly's total traffic crashes have been on a downward trend since 2016 and dropped significantly in 2020 and 2021, traffic deaths remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic years.

  • Speed remains the top cause for traffic deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes.
  • Walking pedestrians accounted for the largest share of traffic deaths in Philadelphia between 2017-2021 (38%), even though they were involved in only 15% of crashes.

Zoom in: Fatal crashes disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic Philadelphians, and those who live in predominantly low-income ZIP codes, according to new data included in the report this year.

  • Traffic deaths involving African Americans have spiked in recent years — averaging 72 fatalities annually from 2020 to 2021, up from around 43 between 2012-19.

The latest: So far, 2022 traffic deaths, through August, remain on par with 2021 levels, according to the report.

  • "This perpetuates the increase over pre-pandemic rates of traffic deaths and shows more must be done in order to understand and reverse this trend," the city states in the report.

What to watch: Philly is aiming to reduce speed limits on all city streets to 25 mph next year.

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