Posted On May 18, 2022 Personal Injury
Newly reported data shows that more Americans lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2021 than in any year since 2005—part of a worrying trend of American roadways becoming more dangerous.
In a recent statement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the situation “a crisis on America’s roadways,” and NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff said the predicament is “urgent and preventable.”
In 2021, an estimated 42,915 people died in traffic accidents in the United States, according to the NHTSA. That’s the highest number of traffic deaths in the U.S. since 2005, when the NHTSA reported that 43,510 people were killed on American roadways.
The 2021 traffic fatality rate constituted a 10.5% increase in fatal accidents from 2020, when 38,824 people lost their lives in collisions. This double-digit increase in traffic deaths marked the second major traffic fatality increase in two years. Despite a 13.2% decline in total miles traveled on U.S. roadways in 2020 (according to NHTSA preliminary data), the number of traffic fatalities that year increased 6.8% over the previous year.
This trend shows a disheartening reversal of the optimistic pattern that had emerged in previous years. Back in 2019, the nationwide rate of traffic fatalities was in the third year of a three-year slump. Motor vehicle accidents cost 36,355 people their lives in 2019, down 1.3% from the previous year’s 36,835 fatalities. The drop came on the heels of a 0.9% decrease in fatal accidents in 2017 and a 1.7% decline in traffic fatalities in 2018.
These decreases may seem relatively small, but every tenth of a percentage point translates to dozens of lives.
The increase in 2021 traffic fatality rates nationwide isn’t evenly spread across states. In five states, traffic deaths actually declined.
Nearly half of the states in the U.S. reported double-digit increases in traffic fatality rates between 2020 and 2021. The states with the largest increases in traffic fatality rates in 2021—excluding the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where the number of deadly crashes jumped by 39.3%—include:
How did the national traffic fatality rate veer from consistent declines to a double-digit increase in just two years? Experts believe much of this increase in serious motor vehicle accidents can be traced to increases in dangerous driving behaviors such as distracted driving, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and failing to wear seat belts.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) blamed the combination of increases in these behaviors during the pandemic and “roads designed for speed instead of safety” for the significant increase in fatalities, noting that this development “has wiped out a decade and a half of progress” and “confirms we are moving backwards when it comes to safety on our roads.”
The risky driving behaviors that have led to increased traffic fatalities are indicative of negligence and recklessness—frustratingly easy to prevent, yet persisting.
Legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, programs like Safe Streets and Roads for All, and funding awarded to states by the NHTSA all focus on preventing these avoidable accidents and reducing the number of injuries and fatalities. Individually, each motorist has an opportunity—and a responsibility—to make the roads safer by slowing down, cutting out distractions and potential impairments, and using their car’s safety features appropriately. Reducing the number of traffic accidents is up to every individual driver on the road.
These traffic fatality statistics are alarming, but they only tell a small part of the story. The numbers fail to express the grief of bereaved families or the numerous ways in which your life can crumble after the sudden loss of a loved one in a car accident. The statistics leave out the accident victims who survive but sustain serious, life-altering injuries and all of the hardships that they and their families go through.
Our car accident attorneys know that victims and their families are more than statistics—they’re real people with real problems, and the aftermath of a serious car accident is when they most need help. If your family has been affected by a motor vehicle collision, please know that you can turn to us for information and assistance, at no upfront cost and with no obligation. Contact us at (856) 778-5500 to discuss your legal options, or submit a confidential Case Evaluation form here.