US traffic fatalities up 18 percent in first half of 2021

US traffic fatalities up 18 percent in first half of 2021
© Greg Nash

More than 20,000 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first half of 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about an 18 percent increase from the number of traffic fatalities recorded in the same time period last year.

An estimated 20,160 people were killed in traffic crashes in the first six months of 2021, which is 18.4 percent higher than the 17,020 road fatalities recorded in the first half of last year, according to statistics released by NHTSA.

This year’s number thus far, according to the agency, is the highest number of traffic fatalities recorded in the first half of the year since 2006.

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Additionally, the 18.4 percent increase in traffic fatalities tracked in the first half of this year is the highest half-year percentage increase recorded in the history of data collected by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg targeting rising traffic fatalities The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Airlines suspend US flights in response to 5G deployment MORE reacted to the grim, record-setting numbers, calling the current situation “a crisis.”

“More than 20,000 people died on U.S. roads in the first six months of 2021, leaving countless loved ones behind. We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

The secretary said the department is establishing the first National Roadway Safety Strategy to “identify action steps for everyone working to save lives on the road. No one will accomplish this alone.”

“It will take all levels of government, industries, advocates, engineers, and communities across the country working together toward the day when family members no longer have to say goodbye to loved ones because of a traffic crash,” he added.

The Department of Transportation also revealed that according to research from NHTSA, incidents marked by speeding and a lack of seatbelts in the first half of this year were higher than recorded in pre-pandemic times.

The record-high number of traffic fatalities in the first half of this year corresponded with spikes in vehicle miles traveled, according to the Department of Transportation. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration illustrate that vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2021 increased by about 173.1 miles, which is roughly 13 percent.

Preliminary estimates from NHTSA released in June found that despite the pandemic and motor vehicles traveling less, the number of traffic deaths in the U.S. increased by more than 7 percent in 2020.

An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, roughly 7.2 percent higher than the year prior, which is the highest projected number of fatalities the U.S. has seen since 2007.