The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recorded the highest number of fatalities in 16 years. Close to 42,915 people lost their lives on the roads in 2021. This was a 10.5 percent increase from 2020, which had 38,824 traffic deaths.
The total tally includes motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists who died from traffic crashes. This figure was the highest recorded since 2005, raising a lot of concern from vehicle safety officials.
Government’s Response To Increased Fatalities
The US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg referred to the increasing traffic deaths as a crisis that had to be addressed by everyone. During his statement, he mentioned that the Biden administration was working towards reversing the negative trend.
Buttigieg cited the National Roadway Safety Strategy and Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aim to reduce the number of deaths on American roads.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law emphasizes improving road safety and now includes a fully funded ‘Safe Streets and Roads for All’ program. The program is currently receiving applications from all over. It is also looking forward to funding local efforts geared toward reducing crashes.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is reevaluating Traffic control devices that determine speed limits, lane markings, and traffic lights. It will also ensure that the Highway Safety Improvement Program receives more funding.
With all these measures in place, the NHTSA has also launched the “Click It or Ticket Campaign”, which spreads more information on the importance of safety belts. With this, the campaign hopes to reach out to teens and young adults by educating them on the proper use of seat belts. In addition, the NHTSA also launched a technical assistance program that addresses increased fatalities in each state.
Fatality Statistics In 2020 And 2021
As the nationwide traffic fatality went up, there was an increase in fatality rates in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Similarly, the number of crashes in each accident category rose, cumulating to the overall national average. Multi-vehicle crashes increased by 16 percent, while those involving large vehicles rose by 13 percent. Pedestrian deaths also shot up by 13 percent as the fatalities in seniors 65 years and above increased by 14 percent.
The increased fatalities were attributed to the increasing number of miles traveled by Americans. Compared to 2020, people covered more miles after the pandemic when travel restrictions were lifted. The federal highway administration released data showing the number of miles traveled in 2021 had increased by 325 billion from 2020. This resulted in an 11.2 percent rise.
While the miles covered increased, the fatality rate for 2020 and 2021 was almost similar. In 2020 the fatality rate per 100 million miles was 1.34, and 1.33 in 2021. Despite the increase in travel, the fatality rate maintained its values with a difference of about 0.01 in the two years.
The NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, Dr. Steven Cliff, assured Americans that the crisis on the roads though urgent, was preventable. He urged everyone, including the state and local governments, drivers, and automakers, to join them as they tried to reduce the fatalities.
“The US Department of Transportation continues to implement more roadway safety strategies, which will eventually oversee the development of safer driving behaviors, vehicles, drivers, and roads” says Felix Gonzalez. Although these strategies will take time to produce results, Americans are urged to make the most out of them.