By a Biometrica staffer
Early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2021 show that an estimated 20,160 people died due to motor vehicle crashes, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Transport’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That amounts to an increase of 18.4% when compared with the 17,020 fatalities projected for the first half of 2020.
That’s the highest number of fatalities during the first half of the year since the year 2006, and the highest half-year percentage increase in the history of data recorded by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The estimated 11,225 fatalities during Q2 2021 represent the highest level for any Q2 since 1990 and the highest quarterly percentage change (23.1%) in FARS data recorded history.
Separately, Biometrica reported last month that, after the Covid-19 pandemic, traffic-related fatalities were the second-highest killer of law enforcement officers (LEOs) who died in the line of duty during the first half of 2021. Of those, 10 were automobile crashes involving a collision with another vehicle or fixed object, five were single-vehicle crashes, 19 were struck-by fatalities while on the side of the road, and four were as a result of motorcycle crashes.
“This is a crisis. More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America,” United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement on the NHTSA website.
In response, the department is launching its first-ever National Roadway Safety Strategy “to identify action steps for everyone working to save lives on the road.” The strategy is scheduled to bring together work being done across DOT and will put forth a comprehensive set of actions to significantly reduce serious injuries and deaths on the nation’s roadways.
The strategy will recognize that although DOT has an important leadership role to play in addressing this crisis, it will require a concerted and coordinated effort across all levels of government, the private sector, and communities to reverse the current trend. The strategy will be released in January. It will be rooted in the Safe System Approach principles and will identify significant actions the Department will take to help ensure: Safer People, Safer Roads, Safer Vehicles, Safer Speeds, and Post-Crash Care.
Apart from the traffic fatality report, the NHTSA also released behavioral research findings from March 2020 through June 2021, indicating that incidents of speeding and traveling without a seatbelt remained higher than during pre-pandemic times. “The report is sobering. It’s also a reminder of what hundreds of millions of people can do every day, right now, to combat this: Slow down, wear seat belts, drive sober, and avoid distractions behind the wheel. All of us must work together to stop aggressive, dangerous driving and help prevent fatal crashes,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff.
Even as the DOT prepares the new National Roadway Safety Strategy, the Federal Highway Administration has accelerated two proven programs focused on highway safety.
Firstly, its Focused Approach to Safety Program has notified 15 states and Puerto Rico — who together account for roughly half of nationwide road fatalities — that they will receive technical assistance resources to address the most common types of crashes that result in fatalities (roadway departures, intersection crashes, and pedestrian/bicycle crashes). It also issued nine new Proven Safety Countermeasures, which are road design elements that are proven to make roads safer for all drivers but that are underutilized.