U.S. traffic deaths soar 18.4% in first half of 2021 to 20,160
U.S. traffic deaths soared by 18.4% in the first six months of 2021 from the same period a year earlier, for the most deadly first half on American roads since 2006, the Transportation Department said on Thursday. Traffic deaths surged after coronavirus lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior like speeding, regulators said.
It was the largest six-month increase ever recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history, which has been in use since 1975, the agency said. "This is a crisis," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America."
The National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) estimated 20,160 people died car crashes in the first six months of 2021 in the United States, up 3,140 over the same period in 2020. NHTSA released behavioral research findings from March 2020 through June 2021 "indicating that incidents of speeding and traveling without a seatbelt remain higher than during pre-pandemic times."
NHTSA said in the second quarter of 2021 alone, traffic deaths rose by 23.1%, the highest quarterly increase ever. That was partly because driving a year earlier was down dramatically due to COVID-19 lockdowns. NHTSA noted that vehicle miles traveled rose 13% in the first half of the year but still, the fatality rate was the highest on U.S. roads since 2006.
Traffic deaths in three regions of the country covering much of the Western and Upper United States were up 25% or more NHTSA said last year that one factor in the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on roads after lockdowns engaged in riskier behavior.
Some experts said that as U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists engaged in more unsafe behavior, including those who perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19.
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