The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released estimates for deaths on U.S. roads in 2021. It projects that there were 42,915 fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. This was a 10.5% increase over 2020’s 38,824 vehicle-related deaths. It was also the highest number since 2005. Fatalities went up in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California was the state with the second most fatalities, trailing only Texas.
The NRSS plan
This alarming upswing prompted a quick response from the United States Department of Transportation, which unveiled the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS). The program will get $6 billion in funding from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Law over five years.
“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “With our National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are taking critical steps to help reverse this devastating trend and save lives on our roadways.”
The steps include:
- Mandatory updates of the manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices, including lane markers, establishing speed limits, placing and updating traffic lights, and other precautions to help drivers travel safely.
- Use the Complete Streets policies at the local, state and federal level to design and build safer roads.
- Embrace Highway Safety Improvement Program’s data-driven updates for making roads safer.
Why was 2021 so dangerous?
According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the increase in fatalities was due to the increasingly dangerous driving behavior exhibited on the roads. Many picked up some bad driving habits when traffic was lighter during the pandemic. The behavior includes driving under the influence, speeding, reckless driving, and driving while distracted. Making matters worse, Americans drove 325 billion more miles in 2021, which was an 11.2% increase.
Legal action can complement policies and enforcement
Agencies across the country are responding to this dangerous trend, but reckless drivers were a major reason for the surge. Victims and their families can seek damages for wrongful death, loss of income, pain and suffering, and related expenses due to the other driver’s negligence or the municipality’s outdated or poorly designed roads.