COLUMBIA - The total number of automobile crashes in Columbia and those resulting in injury decreased last year from 2007, according to statistics released by Columbia police Thursday.
In 2008, there were 445 reported crashes resulting in an injury. That's down from 518 in 2007 — a 14.1 percent decrease.
The number of fatal crashes also decreased, from eight in 2007 to six in 2008, and all were the result of either speeding, drinking or both, Columbia Police Capt. Zim Schwartze said. Five of the six crashes happened either at night or in the early morning.
The majority of people injured in crashes were not wearing a seat belt, Schwartze said.
The total number of crashes in 2008 was also down. There were 3,082 crashes reported, compared with 3,366 in 2007 — an 8.4 percent decrease.
The majority of all crashes reported occurred because the driver was occupied by other things, such as talking and sending text messages on a cell phone, and not paying attention to the road, Schwartze said.
"People are doing too many other things in the car rather than paying attention on driving and the road — that’s the No. 1 reason why crashes occur," Schwartze said. "Sometimes it's people messing with the radio, people trying to read books and newspapers or putting on makeup while they drive. We’ve seen it all."
Most crashes last year happened when the sky was clear and the road was dry, which Schwartze said might lull drivers into thinking they don't need to be as attentive as when it's sunny outside.
Crashes were also most likely to happen between 2 and 6 p.m. on Fridays.
"Obviously, people get off work at the end of the week and focus on the weekend and not on the road," Schwartze said.
The statistics show that crashes consistently occur at areas with the heaviest flow of traffic, Schwartze said. This year, the top five crash locations also were the top five areas where crashes resulted in an injury. The greatest number of accidents reported at one location was 69 at the on-ramp connecting U.S. 63 and Interstate 70 East. Of those crashes, 10 resulted in an injury. In 2007, the number of crashes reported at that location was 28.