Mercer County is seeing almost no change in its number of highway fatalities after the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation released new numbers Thursday.

PennDOT officials said in 2018, traffic deaths statewide increased to 1,190 from the record low of 1,137 in 2017.

Last year was the third-lowest number of highway fatalities recorded, and overall fatalities continue to trend downward.

In Mercer County, there were 12 highway fatalities in 2018 up from 10 in 2017, the bulk of those being alcohol-related crashes, as well as other impaired driving.

Six of the fatal crashes involved vehicles going off the road, while five crashes involved vehicles hitting fixed objects.

These new statistics show none of those fatal crashes involved 16 or 17-year-old drivers last year. 

However, a few fatal crashes involved drivers between 65 and 75 years old.

“Even one life lost is one too many, and Pennsylvania is committed to moving towards zero deaths,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “Our biggest priority continues to be safe travel regardless of the mode you use, and we continue to work with our partners to decrease fatalities through education and outreach.”

While the overall number of highway deaths increased last year statewide, decreases were noted in single vehicle run-off-the-road crashes, crashes involving motorcyclists and heavy truck crashes.

The following crash types saw fatality increases in 2018:

  • Crashes involving drug or alcohol-impaired drivers – 355 fatalities, up from 246 in 2017;
  • Crashes involving pedestrians – 201 fatalities, up from 150 in 2017; and
  • Crashes involving drivers aged 65-74 – 188 fatalities, up from 124 in 2017.

Fatalities in single vehicle run-off-the-road crashes dropped from 506 in 2017 to 478 in 2018.

Motorcyclist fatalities also decreased from 185 in 2017 to 164 last year.

There were 136 fatalities in 2018 crashes involving heavy trucks compared to 155 in 2017.

According to national data, more than 90 percent of crashes are caused by driver behavior.

For this reason, PennDOT focuses on data trends to drive enforcement and education improvements and invests $18 million annually in federal grant funds statewide to support these behavioral safety programs.