The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced the 2013 numbers for traffic-related incidents and deaths are at a record low.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced the 2013 numbers for traffic-related incidents and deaths are at a record low.

According to PennDOT, the numbers are the lowest since record-keeping was started in 1928. The total deaths recorded for 2013 are 1,208.

“Though Pennsylvania has made significant progress in reducing highway crashes and deaths, our efforts to ensure that all travelers reach their destinations safely will remain paramount,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. “However, our efforts cannot reach their potential if drivers refuse to do their part by observing traffic laws and always using common sense on our roads.”

A look at the numbers

PennDOT stated while the number of highway deaths has decreased, there were significant decreases in unbuckled, speeding and single vehicle run-off-the-road related deaths.

The breakdown is as follows:

• Unbuckled fatalities dropped from 503 in 2012 to 425.

• Speeding-related fatalities decreased from 262 in 2012 to 193.

• Deaths attributed to single-vehicle, run-off-the-road crashes declined from 648 in 2012 to 566.

• Fatalities in crashes involving a drinking driver decreased from 377 in 2012 to 342 last year, the lowest number since 1997 when this data collection began.

“Regardless of the record-low number of highway deaths recorded this year, we must never forget that these aren’t just random statistics, but rather they were somebody’s loved ones,” Schoch said. “With that, we turn our attention to those crash areas where Pennsylvania saw an increase in fatalities.”

PennDOT stated fatalities saw an increase in crashes involving distracted drivers, head-on or opposite direction side swipe crashes.

Deaths from crashes involving distracted drivers increased from 57 in 2012 to 64 in 2013, while deaths in head-on or opposite direction side swipe crashes increased from 148 in 2012 to 178.

PennDOT also said fatalities in crashes involving drivers 75 and older increased from 126 in 2012 to 142.

To help address safe driving in this age group, PennDOT offers information on approved Mature Driver Improvement courses available statewide, a brochure on talking with mature drivers and other safety tips at its highway safety information website,

Getting better

“Safety is becoming a key factor and I think that's a good thing for the general public,” said PennDOT Safety Press Officer Mike Taluto. “Every life is precious.”

He added that distracted driving is a big issue and said they have to educate the public.

“There are different issues that can cause fatalities and we have to make the public more aware of that issue,” Taluto stated.

He said one way PennDOT educates the public is by distracted driving enforcement on the local level.

“The local municipalities go out and do enforcement and education to make the public aware of what could happen if they get distracted,” he said.

PennDOT also has the seat belt campaign.

Continued progression

“We always hope that we're headed in a downward direction with less and less fatalities,” Taluto said. “As a safety person I want there to be no accidents and no fatalities.”

Taluto added injuries in accidents are also a concern and mentioned paralyzation as a big danger.

“An injury could disrupt someone's life,” he said. “It can change their lifestyle dramatically. Motorists need to be aware of safety.”

PennDOT has invested $50 million “over the last five years” for safety improvements at approximately 4,000 locations. These improvements include low-cost safety measures such as centerline and edge-line rumble strips.

They have also invested about $20 million annually “in state and federal funds” for safety education and enforcement efforts statewide.

Work zones

This week is National Work Zone Safety Week. Taluto said with more roads being under construction, the public needs to be more aware.

“Motorists need to be aware of work going on in the work zone,” he said. “They need to watch out for employees trying to make the road safer.

“When you go through a work zone, make sure to follow the speed limit, slow down and keep yourself aware of the work zones.”