Officials say U.S. traffic deaths hit a 16-year high in 2021
Traffic crashes are a common occurrence on our nation’s roadways, but last year turned out to be one of the deadliest for U.S. motorists, including drivers in California.
In 2021, nearly 43,000 people died in fatal traffic accidents. That’s about 120 deaths per day due to car accidents.
Traffic fatalities increased in 2021 by 10.5%, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that was the largest percentage increase since 1975 when the organization began collecting crash fatality data.
“Our nation has taken a dangerous and deadly step backward in traffic safety and impaired driving,” said MADD National President Alex Otte, who urged strong public-private efforts akin to the seat belt and airbag public safety campaigns of the 1990s to stem reckless driving. “More families and more communities are feeling the crushing magnitude of this crisis on our roads.”
The situation was also bleak in California, which recorded a 10.7% increase in traffic deaths in 2021 and accounted for roughly 10% of all traffic deaths in the country. Last year, an estimated 4,258 people died on California roadways—up from the 3,847 who died in 2020.
What’s driving this troubling trend?
While some states like Wyoming, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Maine saw a decline in traffic fatalities in 2021, California was one of 44 other states that had an increase. Other key findings from the NHTSA report were:
- Roadway fatalities in urban areas increased by 16%.
- Multi-vehicle crashes went up by 16%.
- Pedestrian deaths saw a 13% increase.
- Fatalities involving at least one big truck rose by 13%.
- Motorcycle deaths went up by 9%.
- Speeding fatalities increased by 5%.
- Fatalities from alcohol-related crashes rose by 5%.
- Among drivers ages 65 and older, fatalities went up by 14%.
- For middle-aged drivers, fatalities rose by 15% (led by those ages 35-44).
- There was a 6% spike in traffic fatalities among kids 16 and younger.
According to traffic safety officials, reckless driving behaviors such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, distracted driving, texting and driving, and aggressive driving are largely to blame.
Roads engineered to accommodate fast speeds instead of safety were also a main contributing factor, as were fewer people using seat belts, officials say. Those factors, combined with driver negligence, have essentially canceled out 15 years of progress in reducing motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
Educating the public, enforcing traffic laws, and improving road design could help stifle the surge in fatal crashes, officials say. The NHTSA is also pushing for new vehicles to have automatic braking and pedestrian detection systems.
Reckless drivers need to be held accountable
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To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer. We proudly serve clients in Walnut Creek, Antioch, and throughout the Bay Area.