The number of deaths on Maine roads dropped last year to the fewest in nearly a decade, according to new data.

Preliminary data released Monday by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety show that 134 people died on roads last year, the lowest number since 2014, when 131 deaths were recorded. There was also a sharp decrease in the number of motorcycle fatalities, but the number of pedestrians killed remained stubbornly high.

Lauren Stewart, the bureau’s highway safety director, said that prior to 2014, Maine had not seen numbers this low since 1944, when there were 119 traffic deaths.

“Though this is a vast improvement over the prior years, the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety recognizes there is still plenty of work to be done because one life lost is one too many,” she said in a statement.

The 134 vehicular fatalities last year also marked a sharp decline from 2022, when 180 people died in traffic accidents. That was the highest number since 2007, when there were 183 traffic accident deaths.

Last year, 60% of motor vehicle occupants killed on Maine roads were not wearing a seatbelt. While 94.5% of motorists observed on Maine roads during the 2023 Maine Seatbelt Use Survey used a seatbelt during the day – the highest rate to date – that number dropped to 77.5% at night. That’s the lowest observed nighttime rate in 12 years, according to the bureau.


In response to that alarming trend, the bureau will be giving grants to police to conduct nighttime seatbelt enforcement, Stewart said.

It is too soon to know how much impaired driving impacted the fatality numbers because toxicology information is still being received. An average of 23% of the fatalities each year from 2018 to 2022 involved someone operating under the influence of alcohol. That number does not account for those under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, according to Stewart.

Last year, 17 people died in motorcycle crashes, a decrease of 47% from the 32 motorcycle fatalities in 2022. Last year’s number of motorcycle fatalities was the lowest since 2014, when there were 10.

But Stewart said there has been no improvements in pedestrian fatalities. In the past, the state would see a high number one year, followed by a sharp decrease the next, then another increase. But since 2021, there have been at least 20 pedestrian fatalities every year.

To address that trend, the Bureau of Highway Safety has increased media messaging and awarded grant funds to law enforcement agencies for pedestrian safety enforcement, Stewart said. The Maine Department of Transportation recently finished a vulnerable road user assessment and will work with communities to implement strategies to keep pedestrians safe.

The bureau is stepping up its work to educate the public about safe driving behaviors and will continue to identify and work with communities that are underserved or overrepresented in crash data, Stewart said. It has also added a requirement for law enforcement agencies that receive certain funds to educate the public on safe driving behaviors and the risk of impaired driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.

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