Early estimates of motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2021 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that while traffic fatalities increased in the US in 2021 compared to 2020, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled slightly declined.
An estimated total of 42,915 people died in crashes in the US in 2021 compared to 38,824 in 2020. This represents an increase of 10.5%. This is also the highest number of road fatalities since 2005.
In the State of New York, 1,139 people died in crashes in 2021 compared to 1,046in 2020, representing a 8.8% increase.
Rate of road fatalities slightly decreased in 2021
When looking at these numbers it is important to remember that most of the states observed a lockdown during several months and as a result fewer people were on the road in 2020. Therefore the number of fatalities by miles traveled is a better indicator to look at to compare 2021 to 2020.
In 2021, the total of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 325.2 billion miles compared to the previous year, an increase of 11.2%. The fatality rate was 1.33 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2021 compared to 1.34 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2021. This shows that US roads were indeed slightly less dangerous in 2021 than in 2020.
The NHTSA also looked at the crash fatalities by regions and while estimates show an increase of traffic fatalities in every region, the fatality rate decreased in most regions except for region 6 (NM, TX, OK, LA, MS) and region 10 (TN, AL, GA, SC, FL) where the fatality rate went respectively from 1.57 to 1.65 and 1.27 to 1.35 (see graph). Region 6 is also the region in the US with the highest fatality rate of all US regions. Region 2 which encompasses New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey had a similar fatality rate of 1.07 deaths per `100 million VMT in 2020 and in 2021. Region 2 had the second lowest rate of fatalities in the US behind region 1 (VT, MA, NH, RI) that recorded the lowest fatality rate of all US regions in 2021 (0.82) and in 2020 (0.81).
While looking at the fatality rate by quarter, the fatality rate increased during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020 but declined during the second, third and fourth quarters of 2021 compared to the same period of 2020.
Read the complete NHTSA report