BOISE, Idaho – Traffic fatalities in Idaho were at a 15-year high in 2021 after declining for four years, according to data from the Idaho Transportation Department.
The Idaho Statesman reports preliminary data indicate that through Thursday there had been at least 258 people killed in crashes this year, the most in any year since 2006.
In 2020, 214 people died in traffic accidents. Since 2016, when 253 fatalities were recorded, the figure had declined each year before rising again in 2021.
“A lot of people feel it has something to do with the pandemic,” said Bill Kotowski, a grant officer with the Office of Highway Safety. “Anecdotally, if you talk to some of our law enforcement partners … people are speeding more, we’re hearing substance abuse has been an issue during the pandemic.”
It’s not only Idaho that is seeing an increase in deaths. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported earlier this year that the first six months of 2021 saw the largest-ever increase in the number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes, with 18.4% more deaths than were recorded over the same period in 2020.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation, also reported that incidents of speeding and driving without a seat belt were higher than during pre-pandemic years.
Between 2016 and 2020, 36% of all fatal crashes in Idaho were linked to impaired driving, according to ITD data.
Through Dec. 15, Idaho State Police have charged 1,453 people this year with criminal offenses related to impaired driving.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.