Traffic crash fatalities on Arizona roadways in 2019 fell to their lowest total in three years, according to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report published Tuesday, June 30.
Total traffic crash fatalities was one of several key measurements that decreased in 2019 from 2018. The 2019 report also tallied fewer pedestrian fatalities, alcohol-related fatalities, fatalities of those not wearing seat belts and distracted drivers involved in crashes compared to the previous year.
The Arizona Department of Transportation produces the annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts Report, which is a compilation of traffic crash reports provided by law enforcement agencies around the state. The report reflects crash data for all Arizona roadways, including city streets, county roads, reservation roads and state highways.
While the total number of fatalities decreased, the total number of crashes in Arizona rose by 1.6% from 2018 to 2019. In the same timespan, Arizona saw the total number of licensed drivers increase by 1.3% to 5.38 million.
Reducing crashes, fatalities and injuries can’t be solved by state agencies alone because 68% of crashes occur on roads other than state highways, according to ADOT. Real change must begin in the driver’s seat because driver behavior is a factor in more than 90% of collisions, according to a release. Some of those behaviors saw better results in 2019 than recent years, but there are still too many preventable crashes, fatalities and injuries occurring on Arizona’s roads.
The report shows that at least 10,491 drivers involved in collisions during 2019 engaged in “distracted driving behavior.” This is an 11.8% decrease from 2018, when the figure was 11,898, the report states. In April 2019, when Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2318, it became illegal for drivers to talk or text on a cellphone while driving unless the device is in a hands-free mode. That in wake of the death of Salt River police Officer Clayton Townsend when he was struck by an alleged distracted driver.
Arizona continues to see fewer deaths related to drinking and driving and not wearing seat belts, the report states. Alcohol-related fatalities decreased for the third straight year, falling 21% since 2017, and the 256 fatalities in 2019 is the lowest total since 2010. The number of people killed not wearing seat belts fell for the fifth year in a row — from 258 in 2015 to 211 in 2019 — but unbuckled occupants still account for about a fifth of all traffic fatalities.
Pedestrian fatalities fell to their lowest total since 2016, with 220 in 2019, the report states. Most pedestrian fatalities occur on surface streets in urban areas, and pedestrians should cross streets only at marked crosswalks where drivers expect to see them, ADOT states.
Crashes involving bicyclists and motorcycles continued a years-long downward trend. The 1,275 total crashes involving bicyclists in 2019 are the fewest since at least 1991 — crashes involving bikes peaked in 2012 with 2,146, according to the report. Crashes involving motorcycles declined for the third straight year and reached their lowest total (2,676) since 2004. Yet, despite the decrease in crashes for these categories, each saw a year-over-year increase in bicyclists and motorcycle operators and passengers killed in vehicle collisions.
The full 2019 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is available at www.azdot.gov/CrashFacts.