While there were fewer crashes and injuries on Tucson roads last year, the number of those killed in vehicle crashes increased, according to an Arizona Department of Transportation report that was released last week.
In comparing statistics from 2017 to 2018, ADOT reported that 70 people were killed in traffic crashes on Tucson roads last year, a slight uptick from the 65 fatalities in the city in 2017.
But last year’s increase stemmed from nearly 700 fewer vehicle crashes in the city. In 2018, there were 6,001 crashes, compared to 6,680 in 2017.
It was a sobering trend that was mirrored statewide: 1,010 people died on Arizona roadways last year, compared to 998 in 2017.
ADOT says 90 percent of crashes are a result of driver behavior, such as not wearing seatbelts, which accounted for a fifth of all traffic fatalities.
In total, last year’s crash deaths ranked No. 13 in terms of deadly years on Arizona roadways, according to ADOT’s list, which dates back to 1925.
However, while fatal crashes did increase, the number of non-fatal injuries sustained in crashes declined year-over-year in both Tucson and across the state, according to the report.
There were 4,137 injuries recorded in Tucson in 2018, compared to 4,645 injuries in 2017, a nearly 11% decrease year-over-year.
There were also fewer alcohol-related vehicle deaths in the city in 2018 compared to 2017, according to the report, which ADOT compiled from statistics reported by local law enforcement agencies.
But last year, Arizona pedestrian deaths counted for nearly a quarter of all roadway fatalities, jumping from 155 deaths in 2017 to 245 in 2018.
Locally, the Tucson Police Department says it is continuing its efforts to combat dangerous activity on the roads, including targeting some of the busiest intersections where drivers and pedestrians are active.
The department’s response is to approach people from both sides.
Margo Susco, a community engagement coordinator with the Tucson police, was recently talking with Tucsonans at East Grant Road and North Alvernon Way, where the department has seen a high number of accidents .
“Sometimes a friendly reminder is everything,” Susco said. “For us just to put ourselves on that corner with our table and our signage, we’re more grassroots by getting out into the community. We’re there for pedestrian safety, and we talk to drivers as well.”
Susco said the simple interaction of passing out water and coming to people in a friendly manner lets them know that someone cares about their safety.
Their main message is awareness.
“If you’re crossing in a crosswalk (look), left, right, left, don’t assume,” she said. “There’s blame being placed on both sides, but obviously safety is everyone’s responsibility.”
State grants have also allowed Tucson traffic officers to increase enforcement in high-traffic areas, because “On some levels nothing speaks louder than a ticket,” Susco added.
She said the onus is on drivers and pedestrians to make the best decisions.
“We can give people the tools, the information and the resources,” Susco said. “But it is on us to do our due diligence in getting out to our community members and giving them friendly reminders.”