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Mass. road deaths on the rise this year after an 11-year high in 2021

An accident and car fire on Route 93 south of Boston caused a traffic nightmare around the area on May 11, 2022.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

After Massachusetts road deaths reached an 11-year high in 2021, the toll could be even higher this year, according to state Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler.

“In 2021, Massachusetts sadly had more than 400 roadway deaths,” Tesler said Wednesday during a MassDOT Board of Directors meeting. “This is the highest amount in more than 11 years, and a 22 percent increase [from] 2020. And preliminary numbers to date, this year’s, show an increase compared with the same period before. And motorcycle deaths are at a 25-year high.”

There have been 172 roadway fatalities so far this year, as of June 15, . MassDOT spokeswoman Kristen Pennucci said Thursday in an e-mail.

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“In comparison, between January 1, 2021 and June 15, 2021, there had been 162 year-to-date deaths.” she said in the e-mail.

Roadway deaths take time to investigate, Pennucci said, so the number of deaths so far this year is likely underreported due to continuing investigations.

“The number of current year deaths will likely increase as we get more information and reports back over time,” she said.

Tesler told the board during Wednesday’s meeting that he wanted to stress a number of safety precautions that authorities have urged drivers to take on the road.

“Drivers should look twice and save a life,” Tesler said. “All drivers ... need to wear a seat belt, drive sober, drive hands free [of cellphones], and travel at or below the posted speed limits. And we all need to make sure to be visible and use crosswalks when walking.”

Tesler said MassDOT is pursuing “all avenues” to increase road safety.

Measures, he said, include “embracing a safe systems approach, investing significant dollars in bicycle-friendly roadways, [and] a new speed management policy in establishing target speeds.”

MassDOT also tweeted out safety advice Wednesday for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

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“Have you experienced the ‘double threat’?” the tweet said. “Drivers/bicyclists: If a vehicle is stopped, you should stop too, as a pedestrian may be crossing. Pedestrians: You may not be visible to an approaching vehicle. Wait for all lanes of traffic to stop before crossing.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.