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More Mainers Died In Vehicle Crashes In 2020 Than In 2019

Maine State Police via AP
Maine State and Clinton Police say three Clinton teenagers died early Sunday morning, Feb. 9, 2020 when the car they were passengers in slammed into a tree on the Hinckley Road in Clinton.

Traffic fatalities increased during 2020, with 165 people dying in Maine vehicle crashes so far, eight more than in all of 2019.

Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, says with more people grounded due to the pandemic and staying home for work and school, it came as a bit of a surprise that 2020 should be more deadly than the previous year.

But she says the same trend has been observed across the nation, and traffic safety experts have a theory.

“With fewer vehicles on the roadway, people think that they can travel faster, because there are fewer vehicles around them and so they’re tending to drive faster than they normally would,” Stewart says.

Further evidence of that, Stewart says, is the severity of damage to the vehicles involved. She says the crashes during 2020 were more extreme.

The number of fatalities involving intoxicants also went up three percentage points over last year, with 36% of 2020 fatalities involving alcohol and/or drugs.