Friday, 04 June 2021 12:43

2020 Fatality Data Show Increased Traffic Fatalities During Pandemic


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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on June 3 released preliminary estimates of crash fatalities in 2020 involving motor vehicle occupants, motorcyclists and people walking and biking.  

Alongside the release of the 2020 fatality projections, Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2020, the agency issued two special reports, Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020, and Update to Special Reports on Traffic Safety During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Fourth Quarter Data.


While Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, NHTSA’s early estimates show an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes---the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007. This represents an increase of about 7.2% as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.


Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, or about a 13.2% decrease. The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019.


NHTSA’s analysis shows that the main behaviors that drove this increase include: impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.


“Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation," said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s acting administrator. "Loss of life is unacceptable on our nation’s roadways and everyone has a role to play in ensuring that they are safe. We intend to use all available tools to reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.


“The president’s American Jobs Plan would provide an additional $19 billion in vital funding to improve road safety for all users, including people walking and biking. It will increase funding for existing safety programs and allow for the creation of new ones, with a goal of saving lives.” 


NHTSA’s projections show significant increases in fatalities during the third and fourth quarters of 2020 as compared to...

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