Pennsylvania has become much safer for motorists, truck drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists over the past few years. 2020 saw the second-fewest traffic deaths since the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PaDOT) began collecting statistics.
PaDOT attributed this success to education, innovation, and enforcement. 2020 was also an unusual traffic year due to pandemic lockdowns.
Traffic deaths in the Harrisburg-Carlisle metropolitan area followed a wider trend. 2019 and 2020 saw the fewest number of car accidents, traffic fatalities, and pedestrian accidents in Harrisburg in the past five years.
Here are some Harrisburg car accident statistics from 2021, as well as a discussion of what it means for the coming years.
2020’s Unusual Traffic Statistics
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 saw some very unusual traffic patterns. Pandemic lockdowns, a shift to remote work, and a shutdown of many tourist attractions led to a 20% drop in traffic across Pennsylvania, including in Harrisburg.
You might expect an accompanying drop in traffic injuries and deaths. But traffic injuries and deaths actually increased by 6% in Pennsylvania in 2020.
Researchers have a few theories about why traffic deaths increased in 2020:
- Speeding was up as drivers saw wide open roads that were usually congested with traffic
- Truck and delivery traffic increased as shoppers shifted from in-person to online shopping
- The U.S. government allowed truck drivers to drive more hours without breaks during the pandemic
- Alcohol consumption increased 14% during the pandemic
It may turn out that all of these factors contributed to the increase in traffic deaths.
Harrisburg’s 2020 Car Accident Statistics
Harrisburg mirrored the wider trends seen across the U.S. and in Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg metropolitan area saw 20 traffic fatalities in 2020. This represented an increase of 25% over 2019.
2019 recorded the fewest traffic deaths in Harrisburg since the state started keeping statistics. Despite the increase, 2020 had the second-fewest traffic deaths in Harrisburg on record.
These numbers include everyone who died in a traffic accident, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, motorists, passengers, and truck drivers.
Focusing specifically on pedestrian deaths, Harrisburg only saw two fatal pedestrian accidents in 2020. This represented a decrease of 50% compared to 2019. It also set a record for the fewest recorded pedestrian deaths.
Harrisburg rarely sees bicyclist deaths. In 2020, PaDOT reported zero fatal bicycle accidents in Harrisburg.
This followed a national trend in 2020. Less traffic led to fewer interactions between bicycles and cars. Many commuter bicyclists shifted to remote work and, as a result, were not on the roads during the busiest times of the day.
With gyms and health clubs closed, many people turned to cycling for recreation. These recreational cyclists rode on bike trails and in parks, rather than out on the roads. This meant that bicycle accidents decreased during the year, even though bicycle use increased.
Harrisburg’s 20 traffic fatalities included two pedestrian deaths plus 18 motorist deaths. But Harrisburg saw over 2,500 car accidents in 2020.
The majority of these accidents only caused property damage. These accidents usually involved low speeds, collisions with parked vehicles, and single-vehicle crashes. Harrisburg had 1,483 car accidents in 2020 that only caused property damage.
The remaining crashes — representing about 1,030 accidents — resulted in an injury that was serious enough to include in the police accident report. The accident statistics do not identify the severity of these injuries, however.
Accident reports often include all injury complaints and visible injuries. This means that police officers will note injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to severed limbs and brain injuries.
You cannot tell from these specific accident statistics how many of these injuries merited a call to EMTs or a visit to the emergency room.
Locations of Harrisburg’s Fatal Traffic Accidents
Most of the fatal accidents happened outside of downtown Harrisburg. Only three fatal traffic accidents happened in the downtown area. Two fatal pedestrian accidents happened on 7th Street near Muench Street and Front Street near 3rd Avenue. A fatal car accident happened on Cameron Street between Kelker Street and Reily Street.
The remainder of Harrisburg’s fatal car accidents happened in the wider metropolitan area. Several happened on I-81, particularly the segment heading west toward Carlisle.
Union Deposit Road and Paxton Street west of the city center saw a few traffic fatalities. US-11 and I-83 also saw fatal car accidents in 2020.
Causes of Harrisburg’s Traffic Accidents
Most car crashes in Harrisburg happened when a vehicle hit a fixed object. These single-vehicle accidents accounted for nearly one-third of car accidents in Harrisburg in 2020.
The second most common cause of car accidents in 2020 was a collision with another vehicle at an angle. These accidents typically happen at intersections or in parking lots, where cars traveling in different directions can easily collide.
Rear-end collisions were the third most common cause of car accidents. These accidents happen when a trailing vehicle hits a leading vehicle headed in the same direction. The trailing vehicle rams into the back of the leading vehicle.
Sideswipe accidents were the fourth most common cause of Harrisburg car accidents. These accidents generally occur when one car passes another either in an active traffic lane or in a parking lot.
Head-on collisions round out the top five causes of Harrisburg car accidents. These types of car accidents made up slightly less than 5% of car accidents in 2020. These car accidents usually happen on streets and in parking lots due to poor directional control, impaired driving, or distracted driving.
Harrisburg Car Accident Statistics in 2021
PaDOT has not released car accident statistics for 2021 yet. But nationwide trends look grim. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), accidents in 2021 are on pace to exceed those in 2020. This would reverse a multi-year trend in which traffic fatalities had been dropping year to year.
As business returns to normal in 2021 and beyond, you can expect traffic congestion to increase. This will likely increase the number of accidents in Harrisburg.
While you cannot avoid every accident, slowing down, staying attentive, and driving sober can help to keep you from joining 2021’s Harrisburg car accident statistics.
If you’ve been in a car accident in Harrisburg caused by another driver, a skilled legal professional can help you to pursue the compensation that you deserve.