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NHTSA estimates largest spike in traffic deaths in nearly 50 years

Photo: Jennifer Yario

The number of people who died in traffic crashes last year increased by the largest percentage in at least 46 years, according to estimates released May 17 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA projects 42,915 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 – a 10.5% jump from the 38,824 traffic deaths recorded the previous year. That marks the highest percentage increase since the agency initiated its Fatality Analysis Reporting System in 1975.

“Over 100 people die every day on our roads, and that number is climbing,” Mark Chung, executive vice president for roadway practice at the National Safety Council, said in a May 18 press release. “It’s devastating to see progress lost, and (it’s) more important than ever that each individual steps up, takes safety personally and does their part to reverse this horrible trend.”


Safe driving tips from NSC include:
Buckle up: Not using a seat belt is the No. 1 cause of death in crashes. Make sure you have the correct car seats for any child passengers, and ensure those seats are installed correctly.
Don’t speed: Speeding plays a role in more than 25% of fatal traffic incidents.
Avoid distractions: Thousands of people have died in car crashes because of cellphone use. Put away your phone and #JustDrive.
Designate a sober driver or arrange for other transportation: Alcohol and drugs can interfere with mental judgment, vision and motor skills, as well as cause drowsiness.
Prepare before hitting the road: Vehicle owners should check for any issues with tires, oil or other parts and fluids. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to see if your vehicle has an open recall (repairs are free).

“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff said in a May 17 press release. “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.”

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