An estimated 42,915 people died in crashes in the US in 2021.Traffic accident fatalities which had been on a declining trend for 30 years started to increase since 2020. Last year, the US DOT announced that it would apply the Vision Zero concept nationally to tackle this problem.
New Yorkers are familiar with Vision Zero which started in 2014. The program was successful at the beginning but got out of hand since the Covid19 crisis. The program was good at identifying dangerous corridors and areas that needed improvements but the implementations of safety measures in dangerous areas, especially those located in historically disadvantaged communities remained too often unrealized. As a result, most road fatalities in New York City still occur in dangerous areas that had been identified as such almost 10 years ago. Just like in 2014 in New York City, the US DOT did some outstanding in-depth research and developed amazing interactive maps to point out dangerous areas in each community of the entire country.
The work of the DOT is extremely impressive:
Among rich countries, America is one of the most dangerous for road users especially pedestrians and cyclists. In The Exceptionally American Problem of Rising Roadway Deaths, an article recently published by the New York Times,Emily Badger and take an in-depth look at road fatalities in the US compared to other rich countries. They found out that during the Covid19 crisis, most countries in the world saw a decline in fatalities with the exception of the United States, Switzerland and Ireland. When comparing national traffic fatalities in 2020 to an average yearly traffic fatalities in 2017 to 2019 , Italy, Hungary, Turkey, Spain, France and Sweden all saw a decline or more than 20% in road fatalities. Italy recorded a 27% decline in traffic fatalities while the united States had a 5% rise in traffic fatalities.
While most rich countries have developed bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructures over the last decade, the United States did not do as much
While many countries started to take measures to protect pedestrians and cyclists such as protected bike lanes, lowering of speed limits and adopting safe vehicle technologies such as automatic braking systems, cars got bigger and deadlier in the United States.
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.
Despite a significant decline in the number of average miles driven on American roads during the pandemic, the number of car accident fatalities exploded. While multiple studies found that most fatal car accidents during the pandemic were caused by reckless behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving or drugged driving, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tried, in a new study to find out the underlying mechanisms leading to this increase in dangerous driving.
In 2020, the foundation collected data from 2,888 drivers who had been driving between October 23rd 2020 and November 23rd 2020. Drivers were asked if they reduced, increased or did not change their driving habits because of the pandemic. Participants were also asked if over the 30 days under study they had engaged in risky behavior such as talking on a cellphone, texting, emailing, speeding on highways, speeding on residential streets, running red lights, switching lanes aggressively, drowsy driving, driving without a seatbelt, driving after drinking alcohol, driving after using marijuana.
The study found that drivers who reduced the most their driving habits were 50 year old female drivers and the ones who increased the most their driving habits were males 39 year old and younger. 50 year+ females were also the category of drivers that were taking the less risks on the road while 39- males were the category taking the most risks on the road.
A man who was seriously injured and whose wife died after their Tesla struck a fire truck while on Autopilot mode is suing Tesla for personal injury and wrongful death. Derek Monet was driving his car on autopilot on a highway in Indiana in December 2019 when the car crashed into the rear of a fire truck that was responding to an accident and was stopped on the road. Derek suffered a broken spine and a broken femur and his wife died in the accident
In his claim Derek says Tesla knew that its software failed to react to emergency vehicles with flashing lights but did not recall its vehicles to update the software. The claim was filed after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation last year and asked Tesla to release its non-disclosure agreements with drivers who were testing the “full-self” driving system. The NHTSA is aware of 11 similar accidents during which Tesla cars struck emergency vehicles with flashing lights and wants to know why the car manufacturer did not recall its vehicles after it transmitted a wireless software update designed to prevent crashes into stationary objects.
The 68 page lawsuit demonstrates how Elon Musk and other executives were well aware that the autopilot was not safe but that the company continued to “hype” its cars as if they were
Last week, Pete Butigieg revealed a national plan to significantly reduce personal injuries and deaths caused by car crashes. The National Roadway Strategy is an ambitious plan to reach a long term goal toward zero roadway fatalities on American roads. The announcement of a “Vision Zero” plan at national scale is coming in the steps of a significant increase of road fatalities in the US. According to early estimates by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 20,160 people died in auto accidents in the US, an increase of 18.4% compared to the same period of 2020. This is the highest projection of road deaths since 2006 for that particular period.
The National Roadway Strategy is a major change of direction for the US DOT which in the past was not doing much for road safety with the exception of producing accident statistics. The details of the strategy and how local leaders and States will implement it are not defined yet but they will be based on the “Safe System Approach: Safer People, Safer Roads, Safer Vehicles, Safer Speeds, and Post-Crash Care”. This approach is very similar to the Vision Zero approach already developed in New York City and in other cities, especially in Europe, and consist in developing programs to reduce crashes and make them less deadly. A Safe System is based on 6 principles:
- Serious injuries and death are not acceptable: the goal of the system is to eliminate catastrophic accidents
38,680 people died in auto accidents in the US in 2020 compared to 36,096 a year earlier according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 7.2 % increase in crashes occurred as the total number of miles travelled by motor vehicles decreased by 13.2%, an indication that roads were much more dangerous during the pandemic. The rate of fatalities by 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) raised from 1.1 VMT in 2019 to 1.37 VMT in 2021. This is the highest rate of crash fatalities recorded in the US since 2007.
The region that includes NY, NJ, CT, and PA had the highest increase of fatal auto accidents
When looking at the increase of fatal motor vehicle accidents by regions between 2019 and 2020, region 2 that includes NY, PA NJ and CT was the worst with a 10% increase in traffic accident deaths.
Road construction accidents have been increasing during the pandemic. According to a recent article in Construction Dive, 60% of contractors reported an increase in crashes in their work zone last year.
During the lockdown as construction work was deemed essential in many States, Department of Transportation officials thought that significantly less cars on the road would provide a good opportunity for them to execute some road work without blocking and disturbing too much traffic. However, with less traffic on the road, speeding and other reckless driving behavior increased and contractors reported more crashes in highway work zones all over the country during the lockdown. In a PEW study that was released last year, many States recorded an increased in work zone crashes despite a decline in traffic in the US by 40% in April and 26% in May.
444 reckless drivers ticketed during Operation Hard Hat in NY State
Car accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries and deaths for children. In the US, 636 children under 12 year old died and 97,000 were injured in car crashes in 2018.
From researching child restraint performance to analyzing teenager behavior behind the wheel and testing safety of future autonomous vehicles, the Center for Child Injury Prevention Study has been constantly researching and advocating for better ways to protect children on the road.
Among their most recent studies, researchers at CChIPS have been looking at the validity of recommendations for rear-facing Child Restraint System (CRS) using newly available real car accident injury data.