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DIGGING DEEPER: Traffic fatalities see spike despite COVID-19 lockdown forcing people off the roads

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TUCSON (KVOA) - For the second year in a row, the U.S. experienced a small decline in traffic fatalities in 2019.  However, those numbers may be changing.

Tucson, along with other cities around the country, have seen a spike in traffic fatalities. And it's only seven months into 2020.

Diana Duffy is a captain with the Tucson Police Department. She is also the traffic safety coordinator. 

"I do know that alcohol sales went up considerably in March and April when the stay at home order started to happened," she said.

Even though there was less traffic on the roadway, Duffy said people were driving faster and some of them had been drinking or on drugs.

"It's an actually a nationwide trend," she said. "Traffic collisions are down in most places. Fatalities are not."

As of July 5, these are the latest numbers according to Tucson Police.

For 2019, 27 people were killed in traffic collisions, compared to 47 so far this year. For pedestrian fatalites, 17 were reported in 2019; 13 in 2020.

There were also zero bicycle deaths in 2019 but one in 2020.

Five motorcycle fatalities were reported in 2019. There 17 so far this year.

Also, there were five vehicle deaths in 2019; 16 in 2020.

Motorcycle and vehicle fatalities have increased more than three times. 

Duffy said some of the crashes had to do with speed. Others involved intoxicants.

All traffic fatalities are concerning to police, but motorcycle fatalities especially alarming.  Tucson Police even put together a public service announcement to raise awareness.  

Ivy Wright was featured in the PSA.  She lost her husband Christopher in a motorcycle crash on Kolb and Golf Links roads last August. 

A driver making a left-hand turn caused his collision. 

She has a message for the community.

"You as a driver wanting to make that turn or go straight please look twice for things that may not be as big as you," she said. "If you cannot see due to lighting or vehicles, don't take that chance."

Duffy said the city recently received a grant that will allow it to add lighting, safety features, such as rumble strips and roundabouts. 

Duffy said these are all things that could help change driving behavior and save lives.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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