Feb 1, 2022 - Economy

U.S. traffic deaths rise at record pace

Police investigating a six-vehicle crash involving a FedEx truck in Cerritos, California, on Jan. 5.

Police investigate a six-vehicle crash involving a FedEx truck in Cerritos, Calif., on Jan. 5. Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

An estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes from January through September 2021, an increase of about 12%, according to new government data released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The data represents the highest number of fatalities during the first nine months of any year since 2006 and the highest percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which has been in use since 1975.

  • The Department of Transportation's NHTSA projected that fatalities increased in 38 states, remained flat in two states and decreased in 10 states and the District of Columbia during that time period.

What they're saying: "This is a national crisis. We cannot and must not accept these deaths as an inevitable part of everyday life," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

  • "We have to change a culture that accepts as inevitable the loss of tens of thousands of people in traffic crashes," said Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator. "This will require a transformational and collaborative approach to safety on our nation’s roads."

The big picture: The Transportation Department released the federal government’s first-ever National Roadway Safety Strategy last week, calling for better safety standards in vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking.

  • Vehicle automation and assisted driving programs have been proposed as technological solutions to making roads safer, but those developments may be years if not decades away, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

Go deeper: Dallas has second-highest U.S. traffic fatality rate

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