Delaware’s 149 traffic fatalities this year are the most since 1988

With only a few weeks till the New Year, it’s been an especially deadly year on Delaware highways with 149 deaths — a number not seen since 1988.

Traffic on a highway in Delaware.

Traffic on a highway in Delaware. (State of Delaware)

A 49-year-old Milford man was crossing Route 1 just north of Milford just before 6:30 p.m. on Sunday when he was hit by a car and killed.

State police say the driver swerved and tried to brake, but was unable to stop in time. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

He’s the 149th person killed this year on Delaware’s roads.

With only a few weeks till the New Year, it’s been an especially deadly year on Delaware highways. The state hasn’t recorded this many highway deaths since 1988, when a record high 165 people died on state roads, according to Delaware’s Annual Traffic Statistical Report.

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“Delaware is facing challenges,” said Jason Coleman, with the state Office of Highway Safety. “Speeding accounted for 32% of all traffic fatalities last year in 2021,” he said.

Last year, 29 pedestrians died, and this year’s pedestrian death toll has risen.

With a few weeks left in the year, Coleman’s concerned about the number climbing even higher, as there’s typically an increase in crashes and fatalities around the holiday season.

OHS believes that inattentive and distracted driving, as well as speeding, are the main causes of traffic deaths this year based on an analysis of completed investigations, even though many fatal crashes are still under investigation.

“It’s not just with Delaware, it’s also a national trend that’s happened nationally as well,” Coleman said.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, intoxicated drivers account for around 30% of all road deaths in the United States. In 2020, 11,654 people died in these avoidable accidents. When comparing the first quarters of 2022 and 2021, there’s been a 7% rise in traffic fatalities nationally.

In Delaware, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 42 fatalities in 2021, or 30% of all highway deaths.

While there are deaths related to drunk driving, according to C.R. Mcleod, director of community relations for DelDOT, he cannot say it is a major factor in Delaware.

He encouraged Delaware drivers to be extra careful behind the wheel, especially into the new year. “Early on in the year, we could see a trend that fatalities were trending higher,” McLeod said. Last year, 19 individuals died on Delaware roads in February alone.

Currently, New Castle County has the most deaths at 79, followed by Sussex County’s 40, and Kent County at 30.

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