As New Jersey plays out the rest of what will end up being the deadliest year for car crashes in more than a decade, new information released by the State Police details what led to the more than 500 fatalities on New Jersey's roads in 2020.

Over the 12 months, 550 fatal crashes took 587 lives — an increase of 26 fatal crashes and 29 fatalities compared to 2019 — according to finalized data.

"Traffic related deaths continue to be the leading cause of accidental deaths in New Jersey and the nation," Col. Patrick Callahan, superintendent of the NJSP, said in the fatal crash report. "Through enforcement and education of the motoring public, we will continue to work towards the reduction of motor vehicle fatalities on our roadways. State, county and local agencies along with our other non-profit partners remain steadfast in improving traffic and public safety efforts."

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant drop in vehicle traffic for much of 2020, but the number of motor vehicle fatalities still managed to jump in both New Jersey and the nation.

"People thought the roadway was theirs," Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, told New Jersey 101.5. "These were reckless behaviors that people chose to engage in, and unfortunately, the result was a greater loss of life."

Distracted teenage driver.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to the new data, alcohol consumption and driver inattention were neck and neck in 2020 as contributing factors of fatal crashes on New Jersey's roads.

Driver inattention (distracted because of phone use, for example) contributed to 163 fatal crashes, and driving while intoxicated (alcohol and/or drugs) contributed to 162.

Car Models with the Most Speeding Tickets
Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash

Sixty-four of New Jersey's fatal crashes were the result of unsafe speeds, the report finds.

"It's unbelievably tragic that people get behind the wheel of the car and make these life-altering decisions without thinking about it," Noble said.

Drivers themselves weren't the only one making mistakes, the report notes. More than 130 of the fatal crashes were the result of a "pedestrian violation," according to the report.

As of Tuesday morning, the New Jersey State Police had recorded 684 road fatalities — a result of 654 fatal crashes — for the year 2021 so far. The last time New Jersey recorded that many road deaths is 2006 (724).

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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