Vehicle crash rates rise in 2012 while fatals stay flat
BY JERRY WOFFORD & CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writers
Monday, January 28, 2013
1/28/13 at 8:20 AM
Tulsa police saw a 7 percent increase in the number of vehicle crashes in 2012, yet the number of people who died remained nearly flat at a number still concerning to police.
There were 43 people who died on Tulsa streets last year in 40 crashes.
Police worked 14,458 crashes last year, according to data provided by the Tulsa Police Department. It's an average of about 40 crashes every day.
"We had about a 1,000 crash increase (over 2011), but the fatals didn't go up," said Officer Craig Murray, traffic safety coordinator for the Tulsa Police Department. "That's encouraging.
"But still hate having it over 40."
Tulsa police recorded nearly 900 more collisions in 2012 than the prior year with a third of the increase attributed to additional hit-and-run traffic collisions, a World analysis indicates.
Tulsa police recorded 13,560 collisions in 2011.
There were 11,655 crashes reported in 2010, which shows a two-year increase of 24 percent.
The number of collisions from 2011 to 2012 increased in all four categories: non-injury collisions, injury collisions, fatal collisions, and hit-and-run collisions.
Hit-and-run collisions increased by 11 percent from 2,789 in 2011 to 3,097 in 2012. Injury collisions increased by nearly 4 percent from 4,176 to 4,340. The number of fatal collisions increased from 38 to 40 from 2011 to 2012. Non-injury, nonfatal collisions increased 6.5 percent from 6,557 wrecks to 6,981 collisions.
The jump in collisions was evidenced across all three of the department's divisions that make up the city of Tulsa.
Leah Ayres admittedly didn't always wear her seat belt when she drove around Tulsa.
She wasn't wearing it when she said someone went through a red light at Eighth Street and Elgin Avenue and T-boned her in 2011. She said she hit her head on the windshield but wasn't badly hurt.
"I was terrible about wearing my seat belt. Now I wear it every time," Ayres said.
It's good she changed her habits, she said. About seven months later in early 2012, someone at 15th Street and Terrace Drive, near Lewis Avenue, pulled out of Terrace Drive, crossed 15th Street traffic and crashed into someone, who was pushed into Ayres' small truck.
"She T-boned a girl and pushed her into traffic so we hit her head on," Ayres said. "And I loved that truck."
Both areas where her crashes occurred - inside the Inner-Dispersal Loop and along 15th Street near downtown - are heavy traffic areas with high crash rates.
Her crashes were also during rush hour traffic, which also increases crash rates.
She said there were no serious physical injuries in her crashes, but it was a jarring experience.
Both times the crashes happened so fast she was in a panicked state.
"I could see it going bad," Ayres said. "I had 2 seconds to react. I slammed on the brakes and locked them up and just slid right into her."
The crashes led her to not only wear her seat belt every time she is in the car, but also to change her driving habits to be more careful and more aware of other drivers.
"I learned how to be a more attentive driver," Ayres said. "You have to think about other people."
The areas that recorded the most accidents were downtown, along the major expressways and along the East 71st Street retail corridor west of U.S. 169.
But it was the portion of the Broken Arrow Expressway near Yale Avenue that proved to be the most hazardous for motorists in 2012 with 84 wrecks recorded by police, 38 of which resulted in at least one injury.
U.S. 169 near East 61st Street was the second most troublesome, with police records showing 72 collisions occurred on that stretch of highway in 2012.
In all, police recorded some 320 collisions on the seven mile stretch of U.S. 169 between East 21st and East 91st streets.
From 2011 to 2012, the number of accidents increased in several areas of Tulsa.
Those areas that saw about 100 more accidents per square mile included the area around the Tulsa Hills retail development at 71st Street and U.S. 75, the Riverside Drive area near Jenks, the northern half of downtown and nearly the entire area north and east of the Broken Arrow Expressway and I-44.
Meanwhile, a handful of areas across the city saw slight declines in accident numbers from 2011 to 2012.
While the East 71st Street corridor between U.S. 169 and Memorial Drive continues to be a high accident area, the number of accidents did decline by about 60 collisions per square mile.
Other areas that saw declines were midtown from downtown south to East 36th Street and Riverside Drive between I-44 and 81st Street.
Murray pointed to unsafe speed as one of the leading causes of crashes last year. Of the 40 fatal crashes, 20 were related to unsafe speeds. That's up from 12 and 10 in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
The department has conducted several special speed enforcements around the city, and Murray said the number of citations for speeding remains high.
"Our speeding numbers weren't as high as last year, but over a four year period it's the second highest," Murray said.
The speeding enforcement initiatives have been publicized and announced ahead of the special enforcement, Murray said.
"We are advertising stuff, talking about initiatives, but people are still speeding and still having crashes," Murray said.
Most of the fatal crashes that occurred were on city streets, not the expressways in Tulsa, according to the data. Murray said more traffic is on the city streets and that a fatal crash can occur at nearly any speed, but it is a factor.
"The higher odds are at 40 (mph) not 20," Murray said.
People also need to focus on their own safety by doing things proven to help in crashes, Murray said.
There were six people who died in crashes involving motorcycles and only one person was wearing a helmet, Murray said.
He said distracted driving is a major concern for him and the department.
Drunken driving-related crashes hit a three-year high in 2012, with at least 11 of the fatal crashes related to alcohol.
However, that number could be higher considering four of the fatal crashes were hit-and-runs, Murray said.
"We don't have any idea if that was DUI or not," he said.
Murray said he did not have data on whether a cell phone was involved in the crashes last year, but national data shows it's an increasing cause of crashes across the country.
The most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2011, 3,331 people were killed nationally in crashes involving a distracted driver, a 2 percent increase. There was a 7 percent increase in the number of people injured in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the administration's data.
There were nine bills introduced for the current Oklahoma legislative session that would in some form ban texting and driving, an effort that has been met with some opposition in the Legislature in previous years.
But whether it's speeding or distracted driving or wearing a seat belt, the responsibility of safe roads lies with everyone, Murray said.
"It's going to take someone behind the wheel to make the decision," Murray said.
2012 fatal crash statistics
- 43 total victims in 40 crashes
- 10 were passengers in the vehicle, eight were pedestrians, and two were bicyclists
- Six fatalities were people on motorcycles. Only one was wearing a helmet.
- 11 fatal crashes were DUI related
- 20 crashes were speed related
- One crash was related to one vehicle running a red light
- 25 of the fatal crash victims were male, 18 were women
- Youngest victim: 7 Oldest victim: 85 Average age: 42.3
Top 10 areas with the most crashes in 2012 in order of frequency:
Original Print Headline: Driving dangers
- Memorial Drive and 81st Street: 92
- Broken Arrow Expressway, near Yale Avenue: 83
- 71st Street and South Mingo Road: 75
- 6000 block South U.S. 169: 72
- 71st Street and South Olympia Avenue: 69
- 71st Street and South Memorial Drive: 67
- 61st Street and South Memorial Drive: 62
- 5000 block South U.S. 169: 61
- 41st Street and South Garnett Road: 60
- Broken Arrow Expressway, near Harvard: 59
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Curtis Killman 918-581-8471
Emergency crews work to clean up a tractor-trailer wreck on Interstate 44 near the westbound Oklahoma 66 interchange. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World file
An overturned semitrailer rests on the southwest leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in Tulsa last year. The crash blocked traffic while authorities cleared steel beams that were knocked off the truck. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World file