More and more people are being killed on America’s roadways. Traffic fatalities have increased by 9% since 2020 and 18% since 2019. Our analysts looked at the latest information on fatal crashes and found that the number of traffic fatalities is up across almost every measurement, especially among people ages 35-44, among pedestrians and on smaller city roads.
- Traffic fatalities increased by 9% in 2021
- Idaho, Minnesota and Nevada had the largest increases in fatalities
- People ages 35-44 saw the largest increase in traffic fatalities
- Traffic fatalities increased by 20% on smaller urban roads
Traffic fatalities in 2021
The number of people killed on America’s roads increased by 9% in 2021 to 46,020. This increase, though, varies greatly from state to state. Traffic fatalities increased by 10% or more in 21 states and by nearly 30% in Idaho and Minnesota.
Even more concerning is that this increase in traffic fatalities is happening after a particularly deadly year. Traffic fatalities reached a 13-year high in 2020 when 42,000 people died on America’s roads. Texas, California and Florida have the highest numbers of traffic fatalities overall, but those numbers grew more slowly than in many other states. Alaska and Wyoming are two of the seven states that had decreases in fatalities in the last year.
|State||2021||2020||% change from 2020|
The increase in traffic fatalities is closely tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first statewide coronavirus lockdowns went into effect in March of 2020, which is when we start to see an increase in the number of speeding-related deaths. This increase becomes even more pronounced during the summer, before declining toward the end of 2020.
Detailed speeding-related statistics are not yet available for 2021, but overall, the number of speeding-related deaths increased by 11% in 2020, while the total number of miles driven went down.
The increased number of speeding-related deaths is even more telling when broken down by region. We found that states in the northeast and south had the largest increases in speeding-related deaths, while the western half of the country saw declines of between 3% and 11%.
|Region||States in region||# of speeding-related deaths in 2020||% change from 2019|
|Region 1||Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont||218||-1%|
|Region 2||New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands||1060||21%|
|Region 3||Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia||1,111||20%|
|Region 4||Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee||1,571||11%|
|Region 5||Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin||1,527||9%|
|Region 6||Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas||2,018||26%|
|Region 7||Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska||771||12%|
|Region 8||Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming||538||10%|
|Region 9||Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada||1,271||-11%|
|Region 10||Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington||410||-3%|
Demographic breakdown of fatal crashes
People of color, women and people between the ages of 35 and 44 have been disproportionately affected by the increase in fatal crashes over the last two years. The number of traffic fatalities rose by 23% among Black people, by 12% among women and by 15% among people ages 35-44.
Most dangerous types of roads
The type of roadway and method of transportation can have a substantial impact on the severity of a crash. City roads and rural highways saw the biggest increases in fatal crashes, while fatalities involving pedestrians or large trucks increased by 13%. The number of fatalities involving large trucks continues to increase quickly. More than 5,600 people were killed in 2021, compared to 3,500 in the early 2010s.
While the number of fatal crashes has increased dramatically over the last two years, there are some early signs fatalities may be dropping in 2022. Preliminary estimates for the first half of 2022 show that fatalities have dropped by 1% nationwide so far. However, traffic fatalities are dramatically different in each state. For example, traffic fatalities have increased by 52% in Maine and decreased by 56% in Rhode Island so far this year.
|State||2022 - first half||2021 - first half||% change from 2021|
Traffic fatality data was sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Safety Council (NSC). NSC data was used to calculate the number of deaths in each state in 2019 to 2021. To calculate the number of speeding-related deaths, we took the total number of deaths for each monthly period and multiplied it by the percentage of speeding-related deaths provided by the NHTSA. Definitions for types of fatalities and roadway categories follow NHTSA guidelines.
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