Highway fatality rate surges despite fewer miles traveled



October 23, 2020 - 3:35 PM

Photo by (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The rate of traffic fatalities on Kansas highways surged in the first nine months of 2020 despite dramatic reduction in miles traveled because of temporary stay-at-home mandates and ongoing health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The number of vehicle miles traveled on Kansas highways from January through September plummeted 10.2% compared to the same period in 2019. But the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled in Kansas increased during the nine-month period, escalating to 1.52 in 2020 from 1.29 in 2019.

“Vehicle miles traveled is going down, yet fatalities are going up,” said Chris Herrick, director of planning and development at the Kansas Department of Transportation. “Everybody is trying to get their hands and arms wrapped around why is vehicle miles traveled going down and fatality rates increasing.”

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