May 17 (UPI) — More than 40,000 people were killed on roads nationwide in 2021, federal figures showed on Tuesday — which is the highest level in more than 15 years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an early estimate of its annual report on traffic statistics, which said there were nearly 43,000 deaths on roads and highways last year — an increase of more than 10% over the 38,800 deaths in 2020.
The number of roadway deaths is the highest figure since 2005, the NHTSA said. The 10.5% increase year-to-year is the largest since the agency began tracking data in 1975.
“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
“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.”
“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” NHTSA Deputy Director Dr. Steven Cliff said in a statement.
“We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone — state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers — to join us. All of our lives depend on it.”
Tuesday’s assessment notes that the rise in traffic deaths came as COVID-19 illnesses began to wane and more people returned to the roads.
According to the report, drivers collectively traveled 325 billion miles in 2021 compared to 2020, an increase of 11.2%. It also said that deaths from multi-vehicle crashes and on urban roads were both up 16%. Deaths among drivers over 65 increased 14% pedestrian deaths rose 13%.
The NHTSA will issue its final report this fall.