Delaware seeing sobering trend in traffic-related fatalities

State is about to surpass last year’s total of 139, which was a 15-year-high
November 25, 2022

When I saw I had a column due the day after Thanksgiving, I was thinking about writing something fun – a local baker making tons of pies for the holiday; going out to a turkey farm; seeing how many gallons of Lewes Dairy eggnog are expected to be sold in the coming month.

Then I attended the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Nov. 16. DART CEO John Sisson was there recapping the season and providing a look at future options for local public transportation. During one portion of his presentation, he talked about how safety is a necessary part of the equation for DART. Then, he said, with a little more than a month to go, there had been more traffic-related fatalities in Delaware this year than last year, and that last year was a 15-year high.

That statement struck me, so I did a little digging. What I found was that while the state hadn’t passed last year’s total yet, it appears it will be passed before the end of the year. According to information on the state’s Office of Highway Safety website, through Nov. 16, there had been 138 traffic-related deaths this year. The website doesn't have the total number of deaths from last year, but that number is available through the Delaware State Police 2021 annual traffic statistics. That report says, in 2021, there were 135 fatal crashes resulting in 139 fatalities.

The state police report also shows that in the last 20 years, 2003 is the highest, with 138 fatal crashes and 148 fatalities. It doesn’t appear the state will break the dubious all-time high of 165 fatalities with 147 fatal crashes in 1988.

Jason Coleman, Office of Highway Safety spokesperson, said there is a crisis on our roadways and loss of life is unacceptable.

“This trend is sobering, but even more sobering is that these fatalities involve members of our community and have a long-lasting impact on our state,” he said. “Even more disheartening is that this isn’t specific to Delaware, as states within our region and nationally are having similar increases.”

Nobody wants to be the person predicting more traffic deaths, but Coleman did say the end of the year generally sees a spike in traffic crashes and fatalities.

Some factors include increased traffic during the holiday travel season; shorter daylight hours, increasing danger for pedestrians as they are difficult to see in dark areas; more driver distraction; and more impaired drivers, Coleman said.

Coleman said the OHS will be conducting its Safe Family Holiday Campaign over the coming weeks, which encourages drivers to slow down, put the phone down and buckle up. It also encourages people to plan ahead for a sober ride, and reminds motorists and pedestrians that they should be on the lookout for each other, he said.

“In addition to paid media and public outreach and education to promote these messages, OHS is funding increased traffic enforcement statewide,” said Coleman.

Coleman said OHS has put its full attention on eliminating serious injury and death from traffic crashes, but it can’t do the job alone.

“Everyone has a role to play,” said Coleman. “We need drivers to follow safe driving behaviors and pedestrians to follow safe walking behaviors.”

I don’t know, folks. Basically, over the coming month, uncontrollable things are going to happen and there are going to be lots of opportunities for people to make poor driving-related decisions. As a collective, let's try to minimize the number of times those two things cross paths.

Small changes can make a difference

There are a lot of big road construction projects slated to take place in the coming years around here. When completed, the roads should be better suited for today’s traffic load, which in turn should make them safer. However, in the meantime, small changes can make a difference too.

For example, I drive through the intersection of Cave Neck, Hudson and Sweetbriar roads between Lewes and Milton twice daily. Roughly two months ago, the Delaware Department of Transportation turned the Cave Neck and Hudson roads intersection into a four-way stop to address ongoing safety issues. The stop signs are a temporary fix – DelDOT is currently evaluating options for a permanent solution that could include a traffic light or roundabout.

Am I still getting used to the stop signs? Yes. Are there times when there are four drivers staring at each other waiting for one of the others to make the first move? Definitely. But that’s OK, because the safety measure appears to be working. In an email Nov. 18, Brittany Klecan, DelDOT spokesperson, said in the two months since those stop signs have been installed, DelDOT’s crash reporting system does not show any crashes have occurred at that intersection.

Joke of the Week:

Admittedly, this column is the opposite of light-hearted and fun. That said, I enjoy a good holiday party as much as the next person, so that’s why I’m using Gary’s party-related joke. As always, send joke submissions to

Q: Why is the mushroom invited to all the parties?

A: Because he is a fungi.


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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