Traffic Deaths Reach 16-Year High

Traffic accidents are a significant deal, but even worse are those that leave victims injured or dead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks data from all 50 states, districts, and territories, and shares that data with Americans.

car accident

Traffic Deaths Rate Surge

For 2021, the estimates are particularly grim as 42,915 died in car accidents. That is up by 10.5-percent in 2020 and is the largest year-over-year increase since statistics were tracked.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways.”

Safe Streets and Roads for All

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law emphasizes ways to improve safety. It includes a new “Safe Streets and Roads for All” program, which allocates up to $6 billion over five years to pay for community efforts to decrease highway crashes and fatalities.

The law also spreads “Complete Streets” policies and standards and requires updates to the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” The latter specifies speeds, lane markings, traffic lights, and related traffic considerations on most roads in the United States. Furthermore, it dramatically increases financing for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which supports states as they implement data-driven methodologies to make roads safer.

“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone – state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers – to join us. All of our lives depend on it.”

Click It or Ticket Initiative

Another federally backed effort to reduce traffic fatalities is the “Click It or Ticket” program. The latest initiative was launched earlier this month and works with local law enforcement agencies.

The program encourages drivers to buckle up and avoid becoming a grim statistic. Indeed, federal data reveals that a driver is 30 times more likely to be ejected from a car than the person buckled. Those who are ejected die at least 75 percent of the time. How many annual deaths are attributed to drivers not wearing seatbelts? The CDC says 13,000 people lost their lives in 2009 that way.

Specific Statistics

Americans drove 325 billion miles more in 2021 than they did in 2020. That represents an 11.2-percent increase and can largely be pinned on the point that the country was emerging from the worst of the pandemic. People were eager to hit the road after months of isolation.

The NHTSA tracks multiple categories when tabulating vehicle accidents. For 10 segments, significant increases were registered. Specifically, fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes rose by 16%; that same percentage was recorded for fatalities on urban roads. The fatality rate for drivers who’re 65 and older rose by 14%. Meanwhile, pedestrian fatalities increased by 13%.

The fatality rate for crashes involving at least one large truck rose by 13%. Daytime fatalities increased by 11%. Motorcyclists and bicyclists encountered more fatal crashes as well, with statistics showing increases of 9% and 5%, respectively. Further, the number of fatalities in speeding-related crashes increased by 5%. Lastly, fatalities and police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes rose by 5%.

Traffic Deaths Conclusion

The current details represent estimates with the final statistics pending. Nevertheless, the federal estimates are typically very near to the final numbers. Sadly, the numbers point to much carnage on America’s roadways. Lastly, along with other forms of accidental deaths, car accidents are the fourth-largest killer in the United States.


(n.d.). Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021 | NHTSA.

(n.d.). Policy Impact: Seat Belts. CDC Injury Center.

(n.d.). Click It or Ticket |. NHTSA.

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Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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