Traffic crashes killed 38,824 people across the United States in 2020, according to data released by U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a press release by the NHTSA states, that figure represents “the highest number of fatalities since 2007.”
The overall number of traffic crashes and related injuries declined between 2019 and 2020, but the number of fatalities rose by 6.8%, per the NHTSA. The passenger vehicle drivers involved in 45% of crashes resulted in fatalities “were engaged in at least one of the following risky behaviors: speeding, alcohol impairment, or not wearing a seat belt.”
In a statement about the release, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said: “The rising fatalities on our roadways are a national crisis; we cannot and must not accept these deaths as inevitable. People should leave the house and know they’re going to get to their destination safely, and with the resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, plus the policies in the National Roadway Safety Strategy we launched last month, we will do everything we can to save lives on America’s roads.”
In 2021, meanwhile, roughly 46,000 people lost their lives on the nation’s roadways, per preliminary data released by the National Safety Council. As an ABC News report explained, that figure represents an increase of 9% since 2020 and 18% since 2019. In a statement about the data, NSC president and CEO Lorraine Martin said: “This devastating news serves as yet another wakeup call for this country. We are failing each other, and we must act to prioritize safety for all road users… One life lost in a preventable crash is tragic enough and more than 46,000 in one year is unacceptable. NSC is more committed than ever to its partnership with the Department of Transportation and commends the much-needed action recently taken by the federal government to save lives.”
The NSC proposed a number of reforms to mitigate rising traffic fatalities, including “Equitable implementation of roadway safety laws”; safe driving technology like ignition interlock for drunk drivers; the reduction of blood alcohol limits at the state level; workplace safe driving training; increased automated enforcement; the standardization of Automated Driver Assistance Systems; and the passage of motorcycle helmet laws.