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2021 Most Dangerous Year on U.S. Roads in More than a Decade

Texas Car Accident Lawyer | 2021 Most Dangerous on U.S. Roads in Decade

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to impact Americans’ driving habits in 2021, making roads and highways across the United States the most dangerous they’ve been in more than a decade.

Motor Vehicle Accident Deaths Up 10% in 1st Quarter of 2021

According to early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the nation experienced 1.26 fatalities per 100 million miles driven during the first three months of 2021, up from 1.12 for the same period in 2020.

At least 8,730 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the first quarter of 2021, a 10% increase over the previous year and the highest number of deaths since 2009.

States began issuing coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders in mid-March 2020. Some began reopening in May 2020, and almost all had partially reopened by June. Officials throughout the country continued to adapt local and statewide COVID-19 guidelines and assess specific reopening and potential reclosing efforts accordingly.

The NHTSA estimates that fatalities declined in February 2021 compared to February 2020 but increased in January and March 2021 compared to the prior year. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven increased overall from January through March compared to the corresponding months in 2020.

Traffic Fatalities Spiked in 8 of 10 NHTSA Regions

Eight out of 10 NHTSA regions experienced increases in motor vehicle fatalities during the period covered by the report, including:

  • Region 8 (Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming) saw a 28% increase.
  • Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington saw a 27% increase.
  • Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee) saw an 18% increase.
  • Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin) saw a 15% increase.
  • Region 6 (Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas) saw an 11% increase.
  • Region 2 (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) saw a 9% increase.
  • Region 9 (California and Arizona) saw a 7% increase.
  • Region 1 (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) saw a 1% increase.

Motor vehicle crash deaths remained steady in Region 7 (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska) but fell 6% in Region 6 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia).

COVID-19 Pandemic Led to More Risk-Taking on the Nation’s Roads

While the report doesn’t detail the leading causes of traffic fatalities during the first three months of 2021, the NHTSA had previously reported an uptick in risky driving behaviors in 2020, even as the coronavirus pandemic caused overall traffic volume and miles driven to decline:

  • Average vehicle speeds in major metropolitan areas rose 22% in 2020.
  • 65% of drivers treated at trauma centers after serious accidents in 2020 had drugs or alcohol in their systems last year compared to 50.6% before the pandemic.
  • Double the average number of people were thrown from vehicles during crashes in 2020, suggesting more weren’t wearing seatbelts.

Some states have also reported a drop-off in traffic enforcement during the pandemic, a factor that likely encouraged more risk-taking on the roads than usual.

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