N.H. traffic fatalities rising higher than national average

  • Emergency personnel tend to the scene of a fatal car accident in Deerfield, Mass., earlier this month. Statistics show fatal traffic accidents in New Hampshire are on the rise higher than the national average. Greenfield Recorder

Monitor staff
Published: 8/27/2016 12:02:04 AM

Traffic fatalities are on the rise throughout the country, an unhappy trend seen in New Hampshire more than almost any other state.

Deaths on New Hampshire roads and highways during the first six months of 2016 were 61 percent higher than in the first six months of either 2015 or 2014, according to data from the National Safety Council.

That percentage increase is higher than the increase reported by any state except Vermont, and is much higher than the roughly 20 percent increase in Massachusetts or the roughly 5 percent hike in Maine.

So far this year, 84 people had died on New Hampshire’s roads and highways in 81 separate accidents, according to state data. 

In 2015 at this time, 64 people had died, while in 2014 at this time the tally was 55 fatalities.

The increase has come despite the state’s launch of a program called Driving Toward Zero that aims to reduce traffic deaths in New Hampshire.

Nationwide, motor vehicle crashes of all kinds killed about 19,100 people during the first six months of this year, putting America on pace for its deadliest driving year in nearly a decade. An estimated 2.2 million people were injured in vehicle wrecks through the end of June.

Until 2014, road deaths in the nation and in New Hampshire had been trending down for two decades, largely because of safety improvements on vehicles such as air bags and antilock brakes, as well as improvements in highway design. The recent reversal in that trend has been a source of concern.

It’s not clear what is driving the rise in New Hampshire deaths, although low gasoline prices and good driving weather have put more vehicles on the road.

One possible culprit can be ruled out: Motorcycles.

New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of motorcycle ownership in the country and the number of motorcycle deaths has worried officials recently – but less so this year.

“Our motorcycle fatalaties this year are down about 25 percent compared to same period last year,” said Glen Wilder, fatal crash unit supervisor of the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

Last year at this time, 16 motorcycle operators and 2 passengers had died, but this year 12 operators and one passenger have died, Wilder said.

The National Safety Council report said the increase in national fatalities “likely reflects the effects of the low real gas prices . . . that have (helped) to produce a 3.3 percent increase in cumulative vehicle mileage through May.”

Even after factoring in more driving, however, the council estimated that fatalities are still rising, from 1.1 deaths per 100 million miles driven to 1.3 deaths per 100 million miles.

The national death tally was 9 percent higher than it was during the first six months of 2015 and 18 percent greater than the first six months of 2014, when the upward trend began, according to the National Safety Council. The council is a nonprofit created by Congress.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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