U.S. Traffic Deaths Reach 16-Year High
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported today that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 – the most since 2005 and an average of 117 deaths every day. Crash deaths rose by 10.5% in 2021 compared to the year before, making it the largest ever annual percentage increase in the nearly five-decade history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. NHTSA’s 2021 Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities also highlights concerning increases in several types of roadway deaths, including pedestrians (up 13%), on urban roads (up 16%) and in speeding-related crashes (up 5%).
An increase in dangerous driving – speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up – during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. This grim milestone confirms we are moving backwards when it comes to safety on our roads.
We can never accept these deaths as simply the price of mobility and convenience; most roadway deaths are preventable. We know the root causes of most traffic deaths and what we need to do to address them. GHSA strongly supports the Safe System approach, a holistic, multi-layered strategy that can make roads safer for everyone using them. The Safe System demands investment in a comprehensive range of countermeasures, including safer infrastructure, safer vehicles, public education and community engagement, equitable enforcement focused on the most dangerous driving behaviors, and post-crash care. All these elements are necessary to create a safety net to prevent or mitigate the impact of roadway crashes.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has provided a bold blueprint for moving toward zero traffic deaths in the National Roadway Safety Strategy. But it will take all partners working together, along with the public, to implement the Safe System approach to reverse the pandemic-fueled traffic safety crisis and make progress toward our goal of zero roadway deaths.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.