Boston traffic deaths: Fatalities of drivers, passengers and motorcyclists up in 2020 amid speeding spike

More drivers, passengers and motorcyclists died in Boston crashes in 2020 than in any of the previous four years, a likely result of a speeding spike with fewer cars on the road due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report released Monday.

Meanwhile, last year, pedestrian deaths went down in the city as walking traffic dropped considerably from 2019 numbers, when 11 people died.

Seven people walking or biking were killed in traffic crashes on Boston streets last year, down from 15 deaths in 2016, according to the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition’s annual progress report.

While car crashes causing serious injuries were down in 2020, fatalities of car drivers, passengers and motorcyclists went up — an increase from five deaths in 2019 to 13 deaths last year.

“With fewer people on the roads in 2020, some people took that as a cue that they could drive faster — with deadly consequences,” said Stacey Beuttell, WalkBoston’s executive director.

The number of serious crashes involving people walking or riding bikes is continuing a downward trend — from 1,315 in 2016 to 1,061 in 2019. Last year, the total number of crashes decreased further to a record low of 689.

The report notes that from April through December, pedestrian activity dropped significantly, declining as much as 50% in May.

“This overall reduction in traffic of all modes has contributed to the significant decrease in the number of fatalities and serious crashes from 2019 to 2020,” reads the report.

“However, this nuance should not detract from the positive downward trend in fatalities and serious crashes involving vulnerable road users over the past 5 years as a whole,” the report adds.

The number of serious injury crashes involving drivers, passengers and motorcyclists decreased from 3,288 in 2019 to 2,655 last year, which was another record low. At the same time, fatalities for these crashes increased.

“The increase in fatal crashes involving motorists and motorcyclists is a troubling pattern and should not be overlooked, even as streets have become safer for walking and biking,” the report reads.

The report emphasizes the importance of “creating mode shift” by implementing safe infrastructure for people walking, biking and using transit.

Boston Cyclists Union Executive Director Becca Wolfson said, “The city has done a good job with defensive measures to protect road users from life-altering injuries and death, but more proactive measures that make it safer and easier for people to get around without cars, like a network of protected bike lanes and accessible, affordable transit are still needed to encourage mode shift, reducing opportunities for motor-vehicle involved incidents to occur.”

The Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition each year assesses Boston’s progress on Vision Zero, a commitment to reducing the number of traffic fatalities in Boston to zero by 2030.