Where the Val­ley’s fa­tal crashes hap­pened in 2018

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Tom Short­ell

De­spite ef­forts to pre­vent traf­fic deaths across the Le­high Val­ley, 47 peo­ple died last year in 43 crashes, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased Pen­nDOT data.

And while that may be too many for com­fort, both fig­ures marked record lows in the Le­high Val­ley over the last 20 years, ac­cord­ing to Pen­nDOT data. Nine­teen crashes re­sulted in 21 deaths in Northamp­ton County, while 24 crashes killed 26 peo­ple in Le­high County, ac­cord­ing to data on the Penn­syl­va­nia Crash In­for­ma­tion Tool web­site. The web­site’s data stretches to 1999.

The pre­vi­ous lows were set in 2013, when 45 lo­cal wrecks killed 48 peo­ple. The Le­high Val­ley’s all-time high came in 2005, when 81 peo­ple died in 77 crashes.

Traf­fic deaths across the U.S. had been in de­cline for decades thanks to im­prove­ments in ve­hi­cle safety, seat belt laws and cul­tural in­tol­er­ance for drunken driv­ing. That trend ended around 2016, and ex­perts have blamed the re­ver­sal on cheaper gas, a stronger econ­omy and cell­phone dis­trac­tions be­com­ing more com­mon. While Penn­syl­va­nia saw its traf­fic deaths in­crease by 4.6% last year over 2017, its road fa­tal­ity fig­ures have been fairly con­sis­tent since 2013.

Last year’s fa­tal crashes ranged from mul­ti­ve­hi­cle pile­ups on Route 22 to a woman be­ing hit while cross­ing a city street. They var­ied from the all-too-com­mon cases of driv­ers go­ing off the road to freak ac­ci­dents, like when a part of the Le­high Tun­nel fell and killed a trucker driv­ing through. a red light and hit two other ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors. Pen­nDOT records in­di­cate two peo­ple died in the crash, but Le­high County pros­e­cu­tors said a third vic­tim died of his in­juries four months later.

One per­son died in the other crash, be­tween a mini­van and trac­tor-trailer.

The prob­lem in­ter­sec­tion has shown up on the radars of re­gional plan­ners, who have ded­i­cated money to im­prov­ing the cor­ner. While en­gi­neers started re­view­ing the lo­ca­tion, they have not yet de­ter­mined what changes will be made, ac­cord­ing to Pen­nDOT spokesman Sean Brown. The Pen­nDOT web­site and the Le­high Val­ley’s Trans­porta­tion Im­prove­ment Plan in­di­cate the early thought is to re­place the in­ter­sec­tion with an over­pass.

The town­ship’s five deadly wrecks tied Al­len­town for the most in the re­gion, but none of the Queen City’s fa­tal ac­ci­dents killed more than one per­son, ac­cord­ing to Pen­nDOT data.

MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

First re­spon­ders work at a deadly crash last year at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 309 and Cen­ter Val­ley Park­way in Up­per Sau­con Town­ship.

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