New NHTSA Report Shows Continued Alarming Rise in Traffic Crash Deaths

Washington D.C. – Fatalities from motor vehicle traffic crashes rose sharply in the first three months of this year.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report entitled Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2021 was released on Friday.


NHTSA estimated that 8,730 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first three months of 2021 representing a sharp 10.5% increase from the 7,900 fatalities the agency projected for the first quarter of 2020.

The report notes that the increases in fatalities come even as driving declined as preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first three months of 2021 decreased by 2.1%, or about 14.9 billion miles.


The fatality rates per 100 million VMT for the first quarter of 2021 increased to 1.26 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from the projected rate of 1.12 fatalities in the same time last year.

“These early estimates suggest the driving patterns and behaviors the agency reported in 2020, which changed significantly from previous years, continue to prevail and that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the NHTSA explained.


The NHTSA’s latest estimates are increasingly troublesome given that traffic fatalities rose to the highest level in thirteen years in 2020 to 38,680.

However, amid the alarming increase, fatalities reported in crashes involving a large truck (gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs — commercial and non-commercial use) decreased by 2% in 2020.

Estimates show 4,895 people perished in large truck-involved accidents in 2020 compared to 5,005 in 2019.

The latest 2021 estimates will be further refined when the projections for the first six months of this year are released in late September


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