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A report from the NHTSA shows auto fatalities skyrocketed in 2021, and the USDOT has implemented new strategies to combat these deaths.

An estimated 16-year high 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021, up 10.5% from the 38,824 auto fatalities in 2020, says a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). This jump is the largest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) revealed their National Roadway Safety Strategy to combat this increase, and the plan is now receiving resources from the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

As the infrastructure law is implemented in the U.S., the new Safe Streets and Roads for All program is being introduced, which will invest up to $6 billion over five years in local efforts to reduce accidents and auto fatalities. The program provides grants to entities that can be used to develop or update comprehensive safety action plans; conduct planning, design and development of an action plan; and carry out projects and strategies included in the action plan.

“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator, said in a release about the report. “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.”

The increased fatality numbers in 2021 come alongside an increase in travel after the initial pandemic lockdowns, with an estimated 325 billion-mile increase (about 11.2%) over 2020.

The NHTSA also reported the following  fatality increases from 2020 to 2021:

  • Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes up 16%
  • Fatalities on urban roads up 16%
  • Pedestrian fatalities up 13%
  • Daytime fatalities up 11%
  • Motorcyclist fatalities up 9%

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in an NHTSA release. “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.”

Details about the USDOT’s Comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy, which was announced in early 2022, can be found here.