Death Rates on U.S. Roads: Stats and Solutions

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of deaths on U.S. roads in 2021 was 10.5 percent higher than in 2020. Statistics reveal that 43,000 people died on U.S. roads in 2021—the highest the administration had ever recorded. One of the known causes of this spike in deaths is people’s persistent and risky driving behaviors during the pandemic.

As the pandemic reduced and restrictions eased, people began taking out-of-state road trips. Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Secretary, said the United States continues to face crises on its roads. As a result, the NHTSA urged local and state governments, safety advocates, and drivers to take steps to reduce the rising death trends. In addition, Alex Otte, the National President of MADD, encouraged efforts related to airbag and seat belt public safety campaigns.

The Stats

Per the NHTSA’s yearly report, 42,915 people died from automobile accidents last year, increasing from 38,824. However, this figure is still preliminary and will be officially released later this year.

Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and forty-four U.S. states recorded higher traffic death rates in 2021 than in 2020. Other states, including Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maryland, and Maine, declined to post, while Rhode Island’s remained the same.

According to the agency’s figures, almost 118 people died in U.S. traffic crashes daily in 2021. In addition, out-of-state crashes increased by 15 percent from the numbers recorded in 2020, with many occurring on access roads off city highways and rural interstates.

Pedestrian deaths rose by 13 percent, while fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes and urban areas increased by 16 percent each. The statistics by age showed that deaths among 65-year-old and older drivers rose by 14 percent, reversing the declining trend recorded in 2020. However, fatalities among middle-aged drivers, particularly those between 35 and 44, increased by 15 percent, while deaths rose by six percent for children younger than 16.

Stats by vehicles showed fatalities involving at least one large truck rose by 13 percent, motorcycles by nine percent, and bicyclists by five percent. In addition, there was a five percent increase in drunk and speeding driver accidents.

Who or What Is to Blame?

People have different opinions on who is to blame for the spike in death rates on U.S. roads. The Governors Highway Safety Association blames the increase in dangerous behavior like distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence. However, this group of state traffic safety officials also blames the rise on poorly designed roads.

Similarly, the NHTSA blames the rise of fatalities during the pandemic on reckless driving behavior. The administration based its conclusion on a behavioral study on speeding and traveling without a seat belt.

Proposed Solutions to the Rise in Fatalities

The NHTSA establishes that roadway crises are preventable, proposing that these spikes in fatalities are an urgent matter. The organization promises to reinforce its safety efforts, encouraging local and state governments, car manufacturers, drivers, and safety advocates to join in on the fight.

Pete Buttigieg referred to a national strategy to spur states and localities to speed limits. He said his department would accomplish this with federal guidance and billions in grants under President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure law. The strategy encourages safer road design, including better lighting, dedicated bus and bike lanes, and crosswalks. The plan also involves using speed cameras which it says will be more equitably enforcing than police traffic stops. Michael Brooks—acting executive director for the Center for Auto Safety—says the Transportation department is on the right path to reducing the rise in fatalities.

NHSA has pending regulations requiring automatic emergency braking on new vehicles. Furthermore, vehicle manufacturers must install systems alerting rear-seat passengers of their unbuckled seat belts. Michael Brooks says that addressing these accident-related issues will take a lot of work and strategies.

How We Can Help You After a Car Accident

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents occur frequently and can cause severe damage to anyone involved. Thankfully, our attorneys are here to help. To learn more about how we can assist you after a crash, contact us at Roberts Markland LLP today.