2021 saw 43,000 traffic-related deaths in the U.S., which was a considerable spike from the record high road fatalities of the previous 16 years. And it’s not hard to figure out what the cause of the increase in deaths on the road was when you consider how many people in Texas were making the shift back to working in person after spending an extended period staying at home.
The rise in fatalities from motor vehicle accidents was a 10.5% jump from 2020. This all comes from data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. This agency has been collecting data on traffic fatalities since 1975, and its work provides valuable insight into how safe the roads were – or in the case of 2021, weren’t.
A pandemic of reckless driving
The biggest reason why the roads were so dangerous in 2021 came down to the way people were driving. In general, the behavior drivers were engaging in while they were in traffic was far more reckless than it had been before. People who were behind the wheel had less consideration for their own safety and the safety of others.
Pandemic driving included driving faster with less regard for speed limits. In many cases, car accident victims were neglecting to wear their seatbelts – a simple action that almost certainly would have driven down the fatality and injury rate from that year significantly.
The problem was that people were suddenly driving more than they were used to, thinking they were more conditioned to be on the road when really, they weren’t quite prepared for the transition. And this was all happening at a time when many were celebrating the lift in restrictions by taking long road trips out of their home state and driving on unfamiliar roads.
These startling statistics have been deemed a crisis by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. It is seen as a reversal of previous efforts to keep America’s roads safe for everyone – a heavy blow for both individual families and communities at large. According to the safety administration, it’s up to governments at the state and local levels to put a stop to this intolerable trend.