Newly released estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the US Department of Transportation, reveal that almost 43,000 people lost their lives to motor vehicle crashes in 2021, a 10.5% increase since 2020 and an 18% increase since 2019. An analysis by CNBC examines why the traffic violence crisis is “a tough problem to solve.”
One major part of the problem, according to CNBC, is the increasing prevalence of large vehicles. Data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that both “the weight and horsepower” of passenger vehicles are at record highs, with the average weight of trucks sold in 2021 at more than 4,100 pounds and the average horsepower of vehicles sold in 2021 at 246, though some vehicles reach 700 or more.
These factors in turn contribute to increasing risks, especially for pedestrians. As one expert told CNBC, “The heavier the vehicle is and the higher the vehicle is, the more likely it’s going to kill a pedestrian and the more likely it’s not going to be compatible with the little sedan and do some serious damage.” According to the NHTSA’s data, 7,300 pedestrians lost their lives to motor vehicle crashes last year. “The bigger the vehicle, the heavier they are, the more deadly they are during a crash,” said another expert.
Then there’s a surge in reckless driving over the last several years. As CNBC notes, research shows that even as total vehicle miles driven decreased early in the Covid-19 pandemic, reckless driving behaviors increased, and so did fatalities with them.
Solving the traffic fatality crisis will require “a combination of regulatory and behavioral changes,” according to CNBC. Experts suggest that given the rise in fatalities among “unrestrained occupants” in the last several years, “driver-based changes” like increased seatbelt use and driving at lower speeds could go a long wear toward mitigating crashes and deaths. Other experts advocate for the implementation of automated safety technologies in new vehicles, like automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring.
More information on the rise of traffic fatalities in 2021, and proposed solutions to mitigate the problem, is available via CNBC’s analysis.