Idaho traffic fatalities at 15-year high

<p><p>Associated Press</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>“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.”</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>Between 2016 and 2020, 36% of all fatal crashes in Idaho were linked to impaired driving, according to ITD data.</p></p><p><p>Through Dec. 15, Idaho State Police have charged 1,453 people this year with criminal offenses related to impaired driving.</p></p>