Roadway fatalities in Massachusetts soared in 2021 to the highest level in more than a decade, and the trend continues to head in the wrong direction nearly halfway through 2022.
Preliminary data through June 15 tally 172 deaths on Bay State roads, 10 more than during the same span last year, a Department of Transportation spokesperson said Wednesday. The spokesperson stressed that the year-to-date count is "likely underreported due to continuing investigations" and expected to climb as more information becomes available.
"In 2021, Massachusetts sadly had more than 400 roadway deaths. This is the highest amount in more than 11 years and a 22% increase from 2020," Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler said during a Department of Transportation board meeting. "Preliminary numbers to date this year show an increase compared with the same period before, and motorcycle deaths are at a 25-year high."
State transportation and public safety officials have been working to increase awareness about the dire conditions and to promote seatbelt use, motorcycle awareness and safe speeds.
For MassDOT board member Dean Mazzarella, officials need to do even more. Mazzarella chimed in at the end of Wednesday's meeting and described seeing "people driving at 90 and 100 miles an hour and shifting lanes."
"The speeds that people are traveling and the aggressiveness -- and I realize distracted driving is responsible for a lot of accidents -- but I've never seen anything like this, and I'm not sure if it's a result of the pandemic," Mazzarella said. "I don't know the reasoning for it, aggressive driving that's putting other people's safety at risk."
"Your concerns are reflected also in what we're seeing in the data," Tesler replied. "We're exploring every avenue we can to bring awareness, change behavior, and remind drivers."