NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Coming off the deadliest year on state roads, the Connecticut Department of Transportation reports seeing a slight improvement — but a lot of dangerous problems still exist, including aggressive drivers and bad behaviors.
The number of crashes and deaths dropped during COVID-19 because most were home, according to officials.. In 2022, when things went back to normal, numbers went up.
“A lot of that dangerous behavior that started during the pandemic, increased drug and alcohol use, increased speeds on our roadway, increased behavior taking in general, has carried over,” said Josh Morgan, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “Our roadway volumes are back to where they were pre-pandemic.”
The Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center at the University of Connecticut publishes crash data. Looking at the past 5 years, the number of deadly crashes has risen each year. In 2022, 368 people died in a car crash. Morgan said it’s the highest in three decades.
The research center also reported aggressive driving contributed to nearly a third of deaths that year.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation aims to educate drivers year-round about safe behavior.
“We’re urging motorists to slow down, to stop driving drunk, to stop texting and driving, because they’re killing people,” Morgan said. “That puts a stat on the board, but that’s also an empty seat at the dinner table.”
Drivers at a Newington gas station said speeding and using a phone while driving are the biggest problems they see on the roads.
“Lots of people are lost in space looking at their screens,” said Mariuz Bielski, of Newington.
To date, this year has seen 261 traffic deaths. That’s fewer than in 2022, but more than in 2021 and 2020. Morgan said this year’s number is expected to pass 300.
Drivers are taking extra precautions to make sure they’re safe behind the wheel.
“I try to give myself enough time because I see that’s one of the worst things, people are always too much in a rush,” said Gina Barry, of Berlin. “I think you gotta pay attention and be much more cautious. I make sure I have no distractions while driving now.”