CANTON — The total number of car crashes in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis and Franklin counties has decreased since 2019, according to data from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research. Experts attribute the decrease to reduced travel due to the pandemic.
During the same period, car crash fatalities have increased.
In 2019, throughout the four counties, 23 people died in car crashes. In 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, that number rose to 27. In 2021, it climbed to 30 fatalities.
Franklin County saw the most dramatic increase in car crash fatalities. In 2019-20 combined, four people died in a car crash. In 2021, that number jumped to 10.
Jefferson County reported eight car crash fatalities in 2019, and 15 in 2020. In 2021, fatalities fell to six.
Pre-pandemic in St. Lawrence County, 12 car crash fatalities were logged in 2019. In 2020, deaths dropped to five. In 2021, they crept back up to 12 again.
“Crashes have decreased in 2020 over 2019 in part due to COVID and no-travel restrictions that were placed in our county. The vast majority of people were working remotely from home and did little travel due to rising cases of the coronavirus,” said Michele James, special programs coordinator for St. Lawrence County.
Ms. James oversees the county’s STOP-DWI, Traffic Safety, Impaired Driver and Disability Parking programs.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that we have seen an increase in fatalities,” she said, “but St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program wants to remind people of the importance of maintaining proper speed limits, remaining focused on driving and put away all distractions, always wearing your seat belt no matter where you are in the vehicle (it’s the law) and do not drive impaired as these items could save more than one life.”
In 2019, Jefferson County experienced the most car crashes, with 3,829. In 2020 and 2021, crashes dropped to a little over 3,000 each year.
Crashes decreased more significantly in St. Lawrence County, falling from 3,622 in 2019 to 2,639 in 2020, and to 2,486 in 2021.
Franklin County had 1,539 crashes in 2019, a decrease to 1,231 in 2020, and a decrease to 1,093 in 2021. Lewis County had 947, then 800, then 495 from 2019 to 2021, respectively.
In total for 2019, the four counties experienced 9,937 crashes, down to 7,711 in 2020, and 7,076 in 2021.
“Several items remain an issue on our roadways: unsafe speed, action of animals, slow-moving vehicles, driver inexperience, distracted driving, failure to yield the right-of-way as well as impaired driving and lack of seat belt usage in the front and back seats,” Ms. James said.
She said that people in St. Lawrence County have an average one-way commute time to work of 20.7 minutes, and that 76.8% of these commuters drive alone by car, truck or van.