For the first time since 2007, preliminary data from the National Safety Council show that as many as 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020.
That marks an 8% increase over 2019 in a year where people drove significantly less frequently because of the pandemic. The preliminary estimated rate of death on the roads last year spiked 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%.
The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump that NSC has calculated since 1924---96 years. It underscores the nation's persistent failure to prioritize safety on the roads, which became emptier but far more deadly.
An estimated 4.8 million additional roadway users were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, and the estimated cost to society was $474 billion.
With the alarming picture painted by these data, NSC is urging President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to commit to zero roadway deaths by 2050---a call NSC and more than 1,500 other organizations and individuals made in January in a letter to the new administration.
"It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn't reap any safety benefits," said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "These data expose our lack of an effective roadway safety culture. It is past time to address roadway safety holistically and effectively, and NSC stands ready to assist all stakeholders, including the federal government."
States also experienced dramatic swings in fatalities from year to year, according to the NSC preliminary data. Estimates indicate only nine states saw a drop in deaths: Alaska (-3%), Delaware (-11%), Hawaii (-20%), Idaho (-7%), Maine (-1%), Nebraska (-9%), New Mexico (-4%), North Dakota (-1%) and Wyoming (-13%).
Eight states experienced more than a 15% increase...