Alarming Rates of Traffic Fatalities on U.S. Roads

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In 2021, traffic deaths on U.S. roads increased as nearly 43,000 people died. This was the highest number recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 16 years. 

According to the NHTSA, traffic fatalities have increased by 10.5 percent since 2020. Statistics have revealed that the number of deaths in 2021 was 42,915 from 38,824 in 2020. It was noted that the increase may have been caused by risky behaviors among drivers, including speeding and neglecting the use of seat belts. 

The crisis on American roads continues to be a significant source of concern, forcing local and state governments to be involved. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Alex Otte explained that Americans are no longer regarding traffic safety while using the roads. Families continue to feel the impact of motor vehicle accidents as they lose their loved ones and spend more on hospital and medical bills.

States with the highest traffic deaths include Texas, Florida, and California. However, some states, such as Maryland, Wyoming, Maine, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, reported a decrease in traffic casualties. Rhode Island reported similar figures to the previous year. 

Notably, the increase in travel after the pandemic may also be a factor in increasing traffic casualties, and U.S. citizens’ total driving distance was 11.2 percent more than during the pandemic. 

An agency’s studies revealed that, on average, 118 people lose their lives daily in road-related accidents. 

The Governors Highway Safety Association related the surge in traffic fatalities to speeding, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and distracted driving. The NHTSA also reported a general increase in all types of traffic accidents. Crashes involving pedestrians rose by 13 percent, and those involving multiple vehicles increased by 16 percent. Similarly, out-of-state travel crashes increased by 15 percent. 

Driving under the influence and speeding fatalities each increased by five percent as deaths of motorcyclists and bicyclists went up nine percent and five percent, respectively. Finally, road accidents caused by or involving commercial vehicles like trucks had a 13 percent increase compared to 2020.

Fatality rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled slightly fell by 0.01 in 2021. Before the pandemic, the number of deaths on American roads consistently decreased for three years. 

Even though Americans traveled less during the pandemic, road accident deaths still increased by eight percent. Deputy NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff emphasized urgently finding a solution to the road crisis. He promised to double their efforts as they worked towards finding a solution and urged everyone to chip in.  

A national strategy has been unveiled in an attempt to lower these figures. The strategy involves reducing speed limits, initiating lane-dedicated road designs, and providing proper lighting. Moreover, it uses traffic speed cameras, which have proven to be more effective than traffic police checkpoints. 

The Transportation Department is focused on reducing traffic accidents and fatalities, and has since opened applications for the program. Many of the implemented strategies will take some time before they start showing results. Nevertheless, all hope is not lost as the NHTSA is awaiting approval of automatic emergency braking systems on all light vehicles and trucks. 

The crisis on American roads may be difficult to solve since many strategies have to be implemented; however, the task is not impossible to accomplish, and the input of every American will be helpful. 

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