New NHTSA Data Shows Highest Number of Traffic Deaths Since 2005
June 22, 2022
According to the most recent projections from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, an estimated 42,915 people died in traffic accidents in 2021. The agency’s projections represent not only a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 deaths that occurred the year before, but also the highest number of reported traffic fatalities since 2005.
Motor Vehicle Deaths: Fast Facts
The NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) first came into effect in 1975. The system acts as a nationwide census that provides the NHTSA with annual data on fatal injuries associated with motor vehicle traffic crashes. The increase in traffic deaths that the agency observed between 2020 and 2021 is the largest increase seen in the history of FARS. The agency’s report pertaining to last year’s numbers also details a starkly concerning increase in traffic fatalities across an array of categories, such as:
- Fatalities on urban roads increased by 16%
- Deaths among drivers age 65 and above grew by 14%
- Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes went up by 16%
- Pedestrian fatalities up 13%
- Deaths in crashes involving at least one large truck grew by 13%
- Daytime driving-related deaths grew by 11%
- Fatalities among motorcyclists increased by 9%
- There were 5% more fatalities involving bicyclists
- Fatalities in speed-related crashes went up by 5%
- Deaths associated with police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes grew by 5%
Risk Factors for Traffic Crashes
One factor in the sudden growth of traffic-related deaths is a marked increase in miles traveled. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) shows a 325-billion-mile increase in miles traveled in 2021 as compared to 2020. That said, a greater number of miles traveled is by no means the only significant factor to play a role in this escalation of motor vehicle deaths. Here are some other key examples from the NHTSA of risk factors for deadly traffic accidents:
- Not wearing a seat belt. Of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants who died in crashes in 2020, 51% were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident. Seat belts were estimated to have saved 14,955 lives in 2017. Whether you wear a seat belt improperly (e.g. the strap behind your back) or you do not wear one at all, it increases your risk of sustaining moderate, critical, and fatal injuries
- Drunk driving. One person in the United States dies in a drunk driving-related crash every 45 minutes. In all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia it is illegal to drive with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08 or higher, except in Utah, where the legal limit is .05 g/dL. However, even in smaller amounts, alcohol affects a person’s ability to drive safely. For example, 2,041 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration ranging from .01 to .07 g/dL in 2020
- Speeding is a major risk factor for traffic fatalities. In 2020, speeding was a contributing factor in 29% of all recorded traffic fatalities. When a person speeds, it endangers not only themselves and their passenger(s), but everyone else on the roadway as well. Speeding has numerous consequences, including a greater potential for loss of vehicle control, increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger, reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment, increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries, economic implications of a speed-related crash, and increased fuel consumption and cost
- Drug-impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance – legal or illegal – endangers everyone on the road. It is illegal to drive under the influence of a drug or drugs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Even in states where marijuana laws have changed it remains illegal to drive under the influence of it. Substances of all different kinds impair a person’s ability to drive, which is why no one should get behind the wheel after using any type of impairing substance
- Distracted driving. At least 3,142 people sustained fatal injuries in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2020. Reports indicate that distracted driving is still commonplace and a deadly issue on America’s roadways. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving safely. Many states have enacted laws to combat distracted driving, such as prohibiting drivers from texting or talking on their cell phones while operating their motor vehicles
- Drowsy driving. Depending on a person’s schedule, drowsiness can occur at any time of the day or night. However, certain factors are most commonly associated with distracted driving-related crashes, such as the time of day. This type of crash most frequently takes place in the late afternoon or between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Drowsy driving-related crashes are more likely to involve only a single driver with no passengers who drives off the road at a high rate of speed and with no evidence of braking. Lastly, drowsy driving-related crashes most commonly occur on rural roads and highways
What if You Were in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
The NHTSA’s Deputy Director says the agency is redoubling its safety efforts in order to reduce the escalating rate of preventable traffic accidents. But even with an increase in federal and state funding, the installation of additional traffic control devices, and special enforcement efforts to promote awareness, serious and tragic motor vehicle accidents still happen every day. If you were in an accident, there are a few important steps you should take:
- Call 9-1-1. If you feel any pain or discomfort, you should seek medical help. Even if an EMT on the scene releases you, make sure you see your own doctor the next day to verify that you did not sustain any major bodily injuries
- Get out of the road. If you can, remove yourself and your vehicle from the road. If you are unable to do this on your own, police on the scene should assist
- Report the accident to the insurance company. Although a driver is required to inform the insurance company about an accident, he or she is not responsible for providing them with all the details associated with it. A car accident lawyer can help the victim provide the necessary information to the insurance company
- Take pictures of the scene. This will help your attorney gather information pertaining to the case
- Exchange insurance information. The victim should speak to all parties involved in the accident and collect their personal and insurance information
- Find eyewitnesses. One of the most effective ways to aid in an investigation is to find any eyewitnesses at the scene and to get their information. This will help a lawyer gather information about the events that led to the accident and can help the victim’s case
At Galfand Berger, our attorneys have been fighting on behalf of injured motor vehicle accident victims for 75 years. In one instance, our client was left paralyzed after an automobile accident. Our attorneys pursued this case not only against the at-fault driver who hit our client head-on, but also against the auto manufacturer for a defective seat belt and the crash-worthiness of the vehicle. We successfully recovered $4,500,000.00 for our client. To read more about this suit, visit here.
Our attorneys also represented a driver who was struck by a tractor-trailer on an inter-state highway. The driver sustained severe injuries that resulted in the amputation of both his legs below the knee. Throughout our investigation, our attorneys determined that the brakes on the tractor-trailer were worn out and that the tires were bald. We were also able to determine that that the trucker’s log was inaccurate and that he was driving excessive hours. Our team successfully recovered $3,000,000.00 on behalf of our injured client. You can read more about this recovery here.
If you were in a motor vehicle accident and would like to learn more about filing a claim, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online to learn more.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have a question about filing a legal claim, contact the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.