NHTSA Says First 9 Months Of 2021 Saw Biggest Spike In U.S. Traffic Deaths Since 1975
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its early estimate of traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2021, which reveals that they increased 12 percent year over year.
NHTSA estimates that 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes between January and September 2021, compared to 28,325 in the same period of time in 2020. Sadly, that’s the highest number of deaths for that time period since 2006 and the highest percentage increase ever seen since the agency started using its current Fatality Analysis Reporting System in 1975.
NHTSA data reveals that the increasing rate of deaths in the first nine months of 2021 (up 12 percent) was roughly equivalent to the increase in miles covered by motorists in the same period (up 11.7 percent). That meant that the rate of fatalities rose to 1.36 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled from 1.35 in the first nine months of 2020. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in terms of raw numbers, the first three quarters of 2021 are still the worst on record for a decade and a half.
“We have to change a culture that accepts as inevitable the loss of tens of thousands of people in traffic crashes,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator. “This will require a transformational and collaborative approach to safety on our nation’s roads.”
According to the estimates, fatalities increased in 38 states, remained stagnant in two (Mississippi and Wisconsin), and decreased in the District of Columbia as well as in 10 states, namely Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wyoming.
The state whose fatalities for the first nine months of 2021 decreased the most was Nebraska (-18.4 percent), while Idaho’s increased by 36.4 percent. Texas was the single state with the most traffic deaths in the first nine months of 2021, with 3,365 people losing their lives in traffic accidents. The District of Columbia was the region with the fewest deaths (28), while Rhode Island was the state with the fewest (49).
“This is a national crisis. We cannot and must not accept these deaths as an inevitable part of everyday life,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The good news is we now have a strategy, as well as the resources and programs to deliver it, thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The National Roadway Safety Strategy is America’s first-ever national, comprehensive plan to significantly reduce deaths and injuries on our roads.”