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Number people killed in crashes doubled last year in Hamilton County despite fewer cars on the road

Higher alcohol consumption during pandemic led to spike
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Posted at 12:34 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 12:37:02-05

HAMILTON COUNTY — The number of people who died in fatal crashes in Hamilton County doubled in 2020 from the previous year despite stay-at-home orders and a decrease in traffic.

A total of 26 people died in 24 crashes last year in Hamilton County, according to statistics from the Hamilton County Traffic Safety Partnership.

“People faced stressors last year like they wouldn’t normally face,” Monica Greer, executive director of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs said in a statement. “Job losses, food insecurity, and evictions. Unfortunately, we saw that play out on our roads in the form of drunk and drugged driving.”

Greer said the stay-at-home orders led to more people drinking at home and fewer sought a sober driver. A survey released by the RAND Corporation found American adults drank more alcohol during the shutdown with an increase of 19% by people aged 30-59.

“We’re also finding a lot of bars and restaurants making the false assumption that patrons are calling an Uber or Lyft," Greer said. "We all need to be more cognizant of those around us and help them find the support they need right now.”

Nearly a quarter of all drivers involved in deadly crashes in Indiana are legally impaired, according to the Criminal Justice Institute.

People also drove faster on empty roads, which Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan McClain said increases the chances of a deadly crash. He also said fewer traffic stops in early spring when there was more uncertainty surrounding the virus could also be related to the increase in deaths.

“We didn’t know what we were up against,” McClain said in a statement. “Our deputies had to balance the safety of our citizens with the safety of their lives. As a result, law enforcement agencies made fewer traffic stops in the first few months of 2020, only pulling over drivers for egregious infractions.”