Fatality Numbers Drop
The latest three-year analysis released by AMATS shows that Greater Akron area crash fatalities and fatal crashes began to drop in 2022 after reaching new highs during the peak COVID-19 Pandemic years of 2020 and 2021.
The latest report is based on AMATS’ analysis of more than 47,000 motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian-related crash records for the area’s roadway sections and intersections obtained from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). For the 2020-2022 Crash Report, the agency identified 144 high-crash roadway sections and 233 high-crash intersections within Portage and Summit counties and northeastern Wayne County.
AMATS Transportation Engineer Amy Prater explains that the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in 2020 led to substantial decreases in the number of travelers on area roadways and in overall crashes. Unfortunately, although there were fewer travelers during the period, there were no largescale corresponding drops in the number of crash fatalities and fatal crashes. Area traffic fatalities and crashes increased significantly during the pandemic and remained high through 2021.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, area crash fatalities spiked to 69 from 44 while fatal crashes jumped to 64 from 43 when compared to 2019. Fatalities increased again to 70 while fatal crashes declined to 63 in 2021.
The area did not record any meaningful improvements in crash fatalities and fatal crashes until 2022, according to Prater. “At 65 fatalities and 59 crashes, the totals remain too high, but 2022 marks the first year since the pandemic that we have witnessed any signs of progress,” she adds.
AMATS officials speculate that fewer vehicles on area roadways during the lockdown led to more reckless driving, higher speeds, and more fatalities. Prater says that agency officials hope that the pandemic-era spikes are aberrations and not part of an enduring trend. The 2022 data offer the first indications to the planning agency as to what may be on the horizon for the area’s roadways.
Two bright spots in the 2020-2022 Crash Report are that the totals of serious injuries and serious injury crashes within the Greater Akron area are remaining relatively stable. Serious injuries decreased by 15 from 364 in 2021 to 349 in 2022. Unfortunately, serious injury crashes increased slightly from 297 in 2021 to 303 in 2022. Prater notes that these totals are in line with an overall trend of declining totals for serious injuries and serious injury crashes that began in 2012.
“Safety data will play an increasingly important role in transportation planning and in the selection of funding for area projects, especially under the agency’s Safe Streets for All (SS4A) Action Plan and the federal government’s Vision Zero Initiative,” Prater says. The SS4A Action Plan details various proposed infrastructure investments and policy strategies to promote safe travel throughout the Greater Akron area. The plan will guide the agency in its selection of projects to address the high-crash roadway sections and intersections identified in the 2020-2022 Crash Report.
The report lists state Route 59, from Alpha Drive to state Route 261, in Portage County’s Franklin Township, and state Route 241 (Massillon Road), from Krumroy Road to Oakes Drive, in Summit County’s Springfield Township, as the two highest ranked high-crash roadway sections in the Greater Akron area. State Route 585, from Benner Road to state Route 57, in Milton Township ranks 81st in the listing, the highest appearance for a section within Wayne County.
The intersections of state Route 14 and state Route 44 (North Chestnut Street) in Ravenna and Riverview and Ira roads in Cuyahoga Falls rank first and second respectively for high-crash intersections in the region. The highest-ranking Wayne County intersection is state Route 21 and Eastern Road in Chippewa Township, which places fifteenth in the listing.
As part of its mission as the Greater Akron area’s metropolitan planning organization, AMATS also tracks bicycle and pedestrian-related crashes.
The agency finds that, out of the 189 bicycle-related crashes that occurred between 2020 and 2022, 174 or 92 percent resulted in an injury and three in a fatality. There were 352 pedestrian-related crashes between 2020 and 2022 with 312 or 88.6 percent resulting in an injury and 24 in a fatality. Pedestrians account for over 13 percent of all area crash-related fatalities that occurred during the three-year period.
High-crash locations identified in the report may be used by communities as a starting point when seeking federal Highway Safety Program funds through ODOT for safety improvement projects. The 2020-2022 Crash Report is available for viewing and downloading by clicking here.