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U.S. Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-year High in 2021


August 10, 2022

According to new crash data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and CNBC.com, more people were tragically killed on U.S. roadways in 2021 than in any year since 2005. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that nearly 43,000 people were tragically killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2021. This is a 10.5% uptick from the roughly 39,000 traffic-related deaths in 2020. The fatalities include accidents involving cyclists, pedestrians, and others who died during a collision.

Deaths caused by multi-vehicle accidents and crashes on urban roads also rose. Multi-vehicle traffic fatalities increased by 16% in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is the greatest year-over-year increase for crash-specific data. Other significant increases in 2021 include:

  • Deaths involving people 65 years or older increased by 14%.
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased by 13%.
  • Fatalities in accidents involving one or more large trucks increased by 13%.

According to the statements made by United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, this rise in fatal traffic accidents is a true crisis. Buttigieg stated that the Biden administration is working to take critical steps to reverse the devastating trend. Buttigieg also cited the Department of Transportation's previously reported Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and National Roadway Safety Strategy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates traffic fatalities surged in 2021 in the 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The increased number of traffic-related deaths corresponds with an increase in miles driven in the U.S. compared with 2020. Preliminary crash data that the Federal Highway Administration has reported shows that motor vehicle miles driven in 2021 increased by approximately 325 billion miles. This is an increase of about 11.2% over 2020. Despite the increased number of miles traveled, the death rate based on miles traveled remained the same from 2020. Government estimates put the death rate for 2021 at 1.33 fatalities per 100 million motor vehicle miles driven, compared with 1.34 deaths in 2020.

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Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/23/buttigieg-says-dot-will-dole-out-2point9-billion-in-infrastructure-grants.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/17/us-traffic-deaths-hit-16-year-high-in-2021-dot-says.html

https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/early-estimate-2021-traffic-fatalities#:~:text=NHTSA%20projects%20that%20an%20estimated,Fatality%20Analysis%20Reporting%20System's%20history.

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