Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Data: U.S. Department of Transportation; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Motor vehicle crash fatalities experienced the largest half-year spike on record in the first six months of 2021.

Why it matters: Road deaths are one of the biggest if underappreciated public health threats in the U.S. and the world.

  • Speeding, distracted driving, and drug and alcohol use all play a role, but tougher automated traffic policing could help reduce the death toll.

By the numbers: An estimated 20,160 people died in motor vehicle accidents through the first half of 2021, according to data released late last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

  • That's the highest total for the first six months of the year since 2006 and about 18% higher than the death toll for the first half of 2020 — the biggest percentage increase for that time period since NHTSA began keeping records in 1975.
  • It puts the U.S. on track for more than 40,000 motor vehicle crash deaths in 2021, roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who died last year in gun homicides, suicides and accidents combined.

What they're saying: "This is a crisis," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement after the data was released. "We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America.”

That's precisely what we do.

  • The U.S. has long been an outlier among relatively well-off nations for its dangerous roads — a recent OECD report ranked only a few countries like Mexico and South Africa below the U.S. for per capita road fatalities.
  • Most of America's economic peers have seen road fatalities drop over the past 20 years, some quite significantly.
  • U.S. motor vehicle deaths are also down somewhat from 2000, but the drop is shallower, and since hitting a modern low of 32,479 in 2011, deaths have generally risen over the past decade.

Between the lines: The pandemic marked the beginning of the surge in U.S. motor vehicle fatalities.

  • 38,680 people died on U.S. roads in 2020, a roughly 7% increase from the year before.
  • But that figure is starker because deaths rose even as the number of miles driven by Americans dropped by about 13% in 2020 to the lowest level in two decades.
  • While driving is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, motor vehicle deaths per mile traveled have barely fallen.

Context: As the roads emptied out during the pandemic, it opened up room for Americans to indulge their worst road habits: driving too fast, too distracted and, often, too impaired. And those habits have continued into 2021.

  • Data cited by NHTSA shows average speed increased during the last three quarters of 2020, and extreme speed — 20 mph or more above the posted speed limit — became more common, which helped result in an 11% increase in speed-related fatalities.
  • Research found an increase in the involvement of drugs and alcohol in crashes, with one study showing almost two-thirds of seriously or fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one intoxicant between mid-March and mid-July 2020.
  • Data also showed an increase in phone use while driving during the pandemic and into 2021, which further contributes to accidents. An analysis by Zendrive found in more than 16% of the crashes its algorithm detects, a cellphone was manipulated less than five seconds before impact.

What's next: Individuals voluntarily adopting safer driving practices would go a long way in cutting down on fatalities. Since three-quarters of U.S. drivers already think they're safer than average, that may be wishful thinking. But steps can be taken to engineer safer roads.

  • The Netherlands once had a car fatality rate higher than the U.S., Marina Bolotnikova points out in a smart piece for Vox. The country cut the rate to one-third American levels by reengineering streets to protect pedestrians and reduce speeds.
  • The Brazilian city of São Paulo cut crashes by almost 22% after it reduced speed limits in 2015 and enforced the new rules through automated traffic cameras.

The catch: City and local governments in only 22 states and the District of Columbia use red-light cameras, and only 16 states and D.C. use speed cameras.

The bottom line: As with COVID-19 and gun violence — two other health threats where the U.S. is often an international outlier — the death toll from driving is largely a matter of what policy and behavioral changes we're willing to accept.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 22, 2021 - Energy & Environment

U.S. fuel economy hits record high but falls short of policymakers' hopes

Data: EPA; Chart: Axios Visuals

New EPA data on U.S. vehicle fuel economy paints a mixed picture, showing record average efficiency in model year 2020 that's nonetheless far short of what policymakers hope to see ahead.

Driving the news: The annual report shows that average overall fuel economy for cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the U.S. reached 25.4 miles per gallon (mpg) in model year 2020 in real-world conditions, a 0.5 mpg increase over 2019.

Updated 12 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 14 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.