The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released alarming new data showing a significant spike in traffic fatalities in the first half of 2021.
In a report released on Thursday, October 28, the NHTSA found that the traffic fatality rate hit the “largest six-month increase ever recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history” from January through June 2021.
According to the NHTSA, 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021, up 18.4% over 2020. The agency says that this is the largest number of projected fatalities in that time period since 2006.
The report found that traffic overall is up so far this year, with vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first half of 2021 increased by about 173.1 billion miles, or about 13%. The projected fatality rate for the first half of 2021 is 1.34 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from the projected rate of 1.28 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first half of 2020.
The NHTSA suggests that speeding, driving while impaired, and driving without a seatbelt are also up in 2021.
The report did not provide data on passenger vehicle vs. commercial vehicle fatalities.
“This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America,” said United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is currently at work preparing a new highway safety strategy to combat the rising number of road fatalities.
“Today we are announcing that we will produce the Department’s first ever National Roadway Safety Strategy to identify action steps for everyone working to save lives on the road. No one will accomplish this alone. It will take all levels of government, industries, advocates, engineers, and communities across the country working together toward the day when family members no longer have to say goodbye to loved ones because of a traffic crash,” said Buttigieg.
Additionally, U.S. DOT says that other federal agencies are moving to address the uptick in road deaths: “The Federal Highway Administration has accelerated two proven programs focused on highway safety. The Focused Approach to Safety Program has notified 15 states and Puerto Rico – who together account for roughly half of nationwide road fatalities – that they will receive technical assistance resources to address the most common types of crashes that result in fatalities (roadway departures, intersection crashes, and pedestrian/bicycle crashes). Today, FHWA is also issuing nine new Proven Safety Countermeasures, which are road design elements that are proven to make roads safer for all users, but are underutilized. The new Proven Safety Countermeasures supported by FHWA are: rectangular rapid flashing beacons, crosswalk visibility enhancements, bicycle lanes, lighting, pavement friction management, wider edge lines, variable speed limits, appropriate speed limit-setting, and speed safety cameras. With these additions, there are now a total of 28 Proven Safety Countermeasures.”