Report: Arkansas, with a 24.9 percent increase, has third highest rise in traffic fatalities

Report: Arkansas, with a 24.9 percent increase, has third highest rise in traffic fatalities

Category: Auto Accidents

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Arkansas had the third-highest increase in fatal car crashes nationwide in 2020, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

While the number of fatal car crashes increased nationwide, the increase was particularly dramatic in Arkansas, which saw a 24.9% rise, only behind the District of Columbia and Vermont.

The increase in fatal crashes came during a year when fewer people were on the roads driving. With pandemic restrictions in place on businesses, many people worked from home and stayed away from bars and restaurants.

Nick Chabarria, a spokesman for AAA, said reckless drivers increased their bad habits by taking more risks with fewer cars on the road. Chabarria cited a report the agency released on Feb. 28, concluding more drivers were speeding, distracted, driving while impaired or driving without a seatbelt in 2020.

“Though there were less drivers on the road overall, the drivers who were traveling through much of 2020 were engaging in more risky driving behavior,” Chabarria said.

Arkansas officials didn’t have a clear answer for why the state had such a high increase in the number of fatal accidents in 2020. Spokesmen for the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the Arkansas State Police said the state’s new reporting system for car crashes is one of the reasons the number of fatal car wrecks increased in 2020.

More law enforcement agencies have adopted the system in recent years, which means more reliable reporting on car crashes, the spokesmen said.

Arkansas State Police Director Bill Bryant told state lawmakers in July the increase in fatal car crashes is partly because of an increase in the number of drivers speeding at over 100 miles per hour, which state police refer to as “aggravated driving,”

In 2019, the Arkansas State Police issued about 1,062 tickets for speeding over 100 miles per hour. In 2020, state police issued over 2,026 such tickets for speeding, Bryant said.

“Some of them are for over 160 miles per hour,” Bryant said.

Bill Sadler, a spokesman for Arkansas State Police, said finding a reason why fatal car wrecks were up in Arkansas was “somewhat of an impossibility,” given each crash has its contributing factors which may differ.

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