Figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the US Department of Transportation, show that almost 43,000 people died of traffic violence in 2021. The NHTSA’s estimates suggest that 42,915 lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes last year, up 10.5% from 38,824 in 2020. This makes 2021 the deadliest year for the nation’s roads since 2005.
In a statement about the data, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said: “We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together. With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways.” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff, meanwhile, said: “This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable. We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone—state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers—to join us. All of our lives depend on it.”
According to a report by the Associated Press, one factor that contributed to the rising tides of traffic violence last year was the rise of reckless driving during the Covid-19 pandemic, including behaviors like “speeding and less frequent use of seat belts.”
The NHTSA’s data also provides breakdowns of fatalities in specific categories of crashes. This data shows that multi-vehicle crash fatalities rose 16%; fatalties in crashes on urban rodes rose 16%, fatalities in drivers at least 65 years old rose 14%; pedestrian fatalities rose 13%; fatalities in crashes with “at least one large truck” rose 13%; motorcyclist fatalities rose 9%; and bicyclist fatalities rose 9%. The data reveals further that fatalities rose in 44 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
In a statement to the Associated Press about the NHTSA’s data, Alex Otte, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said: “Our nation has taken a dangerous and deadly step backwards in traffic safety and impaired driving. More families and more communities are feeling the crushing magnitude of this crisis on our roads.”