Last month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released estimates of traffic fatalities for 2021. As reported by NHTSA, last year was a deadly one, in which fatalities reached a 16-year high – a 10.5% increase from the previous year. This is the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s (FARS) history.
It is sobering to consider the nearly 43,000 lives which were tragically lost in 2021, along with the families and friends left behind – and reminds us that it is our responsibility to operate every vehicle safely and responsibly for our own safety as well as others. Efforts to curtail the increase in motor vehicle crashes and fatalities address infrastructure and awareness.
First, new laws – such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – places a strong emphasis on safety standards for roadways, along with improved traffic control devices such as speed limits, lane markings, and traffic lights. Second, NHSTA’s Click It or Ticket campaign is designed to increase awareness about the fact that seat belts save lives.
Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA Deputy Administrator, said, “This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable. We will redouble our efforts, and we need everyone – state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers – to join us. All of our lives depend on it.”
Most vehicles manufactured today offer a plethora of integrated safety features, arguably making them safer than ever before. At the same time, other factors seem to outweigh their effectiveness. For example, the increase in vehicle traffic causes congestion and increases potential for crashes. Federal Highway Administration data shows an 11.2% increase from 2020 to 2021. That equates to 325 billion miles.
The number of aging drivers is another factor to consider, as well as the high percentage of “distracted” drivers – those who insist on using mobile phones and other technologies while driving. NHTSA’s data showed large increases in several categories.
- Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes up 16%
- Fatalities on urban roads up 16%
- Fatalities among drivers 65 and older up 14%
- Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck up 13%
- Daytime fatalities up 11%
- Motorcyclist fatalities up 9%
- Fatalities in police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes up 5%
As we have written here before, reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the roads, and in our homes and communities should be a primary concern. The National Safety Council (NSC) has designated June National Safety Month, which serves as a reminder how important safe attitudes and behaviors are to us and those who depend upon us – whether at work, on the road, or anywhere else.
If you are interested in FARS data (from 1975 to present, it is available for download here from NHTSA.