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Traffic deaths increased during pandemic despite fewer drivers, estimates show

Preliminary estimates show there were more traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic...
Preliminary estimates show there were more traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic despite fewer people on the roads.(Maine State Police)
Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 12:41 PM CDT
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(Gray News) - Preliminary estimates show there were more traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic despite fewer people on the roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Early estimates show 38,680 people died in crashes in 2020 which is the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007 – an increase of about 7.2% compared to 2019.

Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows the number of vehicles traveling in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, roughly a 13% decrease.

NHTSA analysis shows impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt were the main behaviors that drove the increase in traffic fatalities.

“Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation. 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,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Acting Administrator.

According to Cliff, the President’s American Jobs Plan would provide an additional $19 billion in funding to improve road safety for all users.

“It will increase funding for existing safety programs and allow for the creation of new ones, with a goal of saving lives,” Cliff said.

NHTSA will continue to analyze data sources to understand how the risks to vulnerable road users might have changed during 2020 and the contributing factors for the increase.

Early findings show that traffic fatalities rose 9% for motorcycles and 5% both for passenger vehicle occupants and cyclists.

On the other hand, Fatalities in crashes involving a large truck (commercial or non-commercial) are projected to decline 2%, and fatalities among those 65+ years of age are projected to decline about 9%.

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