The pace of dangerous driving shows few signs of slowing. The first nine months of 2021 saw fatalities caused by traffic accidents set new records by skyrocketing to nearly 32,000. The 21 percent increase represents the highest percentage since the Transportation Department started its recording of traffic death data in 1975.
A problem one decade in the making
The trend is troubling when looking at the first nine months of a year over the past decade. Government estimates reveal that deaths on roads throughout the United States grew by one-third from 2011 to 2021, a loss of nearly 7,800 lives. Prior to the alarming growth in fatal crashes in 2019, fatalities decreased consistently for three consecutive years.
A majority of states – 38 – saw individual increases in motor vehicle accident deaths. Topping the list is the trio of Idaho, Nevada, and Texas. Two states remained flat, with declines in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Government initiatives to improve road safety
Federal government leaders are launching new strategies to change course and reverse the trend. The Department of Transportation announced a two-year plan funded by billions in grants. States and localities will be encouraged to reduce speed limits, improve road designs to make bike and bus lanes safer, and provide better lighting and crosswalks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also proposing ways to reduce collisions. All new passenger vehicles will have mandatory automatic emergency braking in new passenger vehicles. In addition, new standards of safety will focus on crash avoidance and lane-keeping assistance.
Government initiatives and cutting-edge technology may help stem the rising tide of fatalities. However, they are unlikely to prevent serious, if not fatal accidents caused by drivers operating vehicles inattentively and under the influence.