The fatality report released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is indeed unsettling. Traffic-related fatalities in 2021 eclipsed the number of deaths on the nation’s roads from previous years.
In just one year, the number of men, women and children killed in vehicle collisions jumped a whopping 10.5 percent over 2020. During the 12 months of 2021, traffic accidents claimed 42,915 lives.
It is the worst record in 16 years, according to the NHTSA. That amounts to 118 deaths every day. In the year before, 38,824 died in highway mishaps.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg calls it a crisis. MADD National President Alex Otte describes it as a step backward.
Highway safety experts submit a number of reasons for the increase. Number-one on their list is the pandemic. Americans did not drive as much during the height of COVID-19, but they drove 325 billion more miles in 2021 than they did in 2020. That is a highway travel increase of 11.2 percent. Apparently, judging from the massive loss of life, many had forgotten how to drive or the rules of safety by the time they returned to the highways.
Simply put, safety officials report, motorists are driving too fast, and more people, regardless of warning after warning, are testing their skills at the wheel while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Distracted driving, as well as roads designed for speed more than safety, also contributed to the shocking death toll.
States at the top of the list of highway fatalities include Florida, Texas and California. Only five states posted declines: Wyoming, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland and Maine. The number of highway fatalities in Rhode Island remained the same as the year before.
According to highway safety officials, life-taking crashes caused by motorists from other states climbed 15 percent. The fatalities occurred mostly on rural interstates or access roads from main city drags.
In urban areas, traffic deaths increased by 16 percent, as well as the number of lives lost in accidents involving more than two vehicles. The number of pedestrians killed by motorists rose by 13 percent.
Live and let live. Keep your eyes on the road, slow down, wear seat belts and never, never attempt to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or anything else that will lead to impaired driving.
5/20/2022 Stay Safe Out on the Roads
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