Arizona motor vehicle crash deaths rose to 895 in 2015

Crashes also increased, annual ADOT summary shows

PHOENIX – Motor vehicle crashes on local roads and highways across the state claimed the lives of 895 people in 2015, 121 more than the year before, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s annual Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report. 

The statistical report summing up data provided by law enforcement agencies around the state provides some sobering information about motor vehicle crashes last year, including the 15.6 percent increase in fatalities, compared to 774 deaths that occurred in 2014. The highest annual number of motor vehicle crash fatalities in Arizona – 1,301 – occurred in 2006.

The numbers highlight how better decisions can save lives when it comes to the following factors, some of which can apply to the same crashes:

  • 313 of those killed last year weren’t using a seat belt, child safety device or helmet, which represents a 17.7 percent increase from 2014.
  • 300 of those killed were involved in crashes related to exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for conditions, a 25.5 percent increase from 2014.
  • 295 of those killed were involved in alcohol-related crashes, a 9.7 percent increase from 2014.

“One death will always be too many, and there are things all drivers can do to reduce the number of crash deaths, starting with buckling up, obeying speed limits and reducing speed when conditions warrant,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said.

“When you are behind the wheel, job number one is driving – not looking at your phone, not reading, not personal grooming, not anything that takes your attention away from the road. It is dangerous and disrespectful for everyone sharing the road with you. Just drive!” said Halikowski.

Total crashes in the state rose to 116,609 in 2015 from 109,664 the year before. Total injuries rose as well, with 53,554 in 2015 compared to 50,988 in 2014.

After falling every year since 2011, alcohol-related crashes rose slightly to 4,941 in 2015 from 4,906 the year before, while the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes rose to 295 last year from 269 in 2014. According to the Crash Facts report, 16.2 percent of drivers in fatal crashes last year had been drinking, while 4.8 percent of drivers in fatal crashes appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

“It’s tragic and frustrating to see increases in fatalities involving impaired driving,” said Alberto Gutier, director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “We’ll never stop efforts to get people to do the right thing, including arranging for a designated driver. And we’ll fully back law enforcement and their dedication to getting impaired drivers off the road.”

Speed and aggressive driving remained key factors contributing to crashes, with 17 percent of drivers in fatal crashes going too fast for conditions or exceeding the speed limit. The report also shows 38 percent of motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes were going too fast for conditions or exceeding the speed limit.

“Without a doubt, the number of crash fatalities would be dramatically reduced if more drivers would slow down and obey speed limits,” said Colonel Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. “Our troopers are focused on stopping aggressive speeders. Changing bad driving behaviors is a key to highway safety.”

Motorcycle fatalities in Arizona rose to 134 in 2015 from 128 the year before. Twenty-nine bicyclists died in crashes during 2015, the same number as the year before, though the number of crashes involving bicycles fell to 1,434 last year from 1,744 in 2014.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, also noted the increase in the number of fatalities involving people who weren’t using seat belts or other safety devices, which rose from 266 in 2014 to 313 last year.

“Accidents happen when we least expect it,” said Dr. Christ. “These numbers show how important it is to make sure you and all your passengers are buckled in properly to reduce the risk of serious injury or worse.”

The number of pedestrians killed in crashes rose to 161 in 2015 from 155 the year before, though crashes involving pedestrians declined to 1,399 from 1,565 in 2014.

Here are other figures from the 2015 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report:

  • One person was killed in a motor vehicle crash every 9.79 hours.
  • 471 fatalities occurred in urban areas and 424 deaths occurred in rural areas.
  • Of all alcohol-related crashes, 77.9 percent occurred in urban areas and 22.1 percent in rural areas.
  • Among fatal crashes related to alcohol, 56.4 percent occurred in urban areas and 43.6 occurred in rural areas.
  • Nearly three-quarters of all crashes occurred during daylight hours.
  • Friday was the peak day of the week for all crashes during 2015 with 19,971, while the most fatal crashes – 154 – occurred on Saturdays.
  • Thanksgiving was the deadliest holiday weekend last year, with 16 motor-vehicle fatalities.
  • Motor vehicle crashes resulted in $3.82 billion in economic losses for Arizona last year.

The ADOT 2015 Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts report is available at 

ADOT, other public safety agencies and partner organizations work to promote safety on all roadways through the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a framework for reducing motor vehicle crash fatalities and serious injuries. Emphasis areas addressed in the report include speeding and aggressive driving, impaired driving, occupant protection, motorcycle safety and distracted driving.