Early 2021 estimates from NHTSA show increase in traffic fatalities

Agency estimates 8,730 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first three months of 2021

September 08, 2021 / 2 minute read
road traffic fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released the agency's Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2021.

NHTSA estimates that 8,730 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first three months of 2021, a 10.5% increase from the 7,900 fatalities the agency projected for the first quarter of 2020, according to a press release.

These increases in fatalities come even as driving declined; preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration show that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first three months of 2021 decreased by 2.1%, or about 14.9 billion miles. The fatality rates per 100 million VMT for the first quarter of 2021 increased to 1.26 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from the projected rate of 1.12 fatalities in the same time last year.  

“We must address the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety. Everyone—including those who design, operate, build, and use the road system—shares responsibility for road safety,” Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator, said in a statement. “We are working closely with our safety partners to address risky driving behaviors such as speeding, impaired driving, and failing to buckle up.”   

NHTSA says these early estimates suggest the driving patterns and behaviors the agency reported in 2020, which changed significantly from previous years, continue to prevail and that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior—including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

NHTSA also released the 10th edition of Countermeasures That Work. This report, the agency says, supports a proactive, equitable safe system approach to eliminating fatalities on the nation’s roads, and addresses the safety of all road users, including those who walk, bike, and drive. 

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SOURCE: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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