The latest official data over road casualty rates in the US are giving serious cause for concern. According to preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC), there were over 21,400 road deaths for the first six months of 2021.
The NSC’s preliminary data also indicates 42,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the US during 2020, a jump of 24% from the previous year. This was in spate of a 13% drop in the total distance driven in the US as a result of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published its Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2021. According to the estimates from the NHTSA, 8,730 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first three months of 2021. This represents a 10.5% jump from the 7,900 fatalities the NHTSA identified for the first quarter of 2020.
Road death rates had been falling for 15 years until the pandemic hit in 2020. Despite a drop in vehicle journeys and total distances driven in 2020, road deaths actually increased when compared to 2019. That this preliminary data shows road deaths have increased once more and significantly so is a matter for serious concern.
The data for the US is in marked contrast with improved road safety seen in the UK during the pandemic, as well as the steady improvement in road safety in France for example.
Some US states have performed well in terms of road safety, seeing fatality rates drop. These are; Alaska, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
However, some US states show particular cause for concern, with both South Dakota and Oregon seeing increases in road deaths of over 51%. Other poor performing states with increases in road deaths of over 30% are; Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont.
The NSC highlights that the three biggest causes of fatalities on the road are alcohol, speeding and lack of seat belt use. Driver distraction is another serious problem in the US that leads to crashes.