Traffic fatalities are, unfortunately, on the rise in the U.S. Preliminary estimates released for 2021 by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year. This represents a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities recorded in 2020, the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history.

Some categories showed large shifts in fatalities and fatality rates in a given month, compared to the corresponding month in 2020. The share of fatalities on urban roads increased from 57% in March 2020 to 62% in March 2021; correspondingly, the total fatalities (fatality counts) on urban roads increased from 21,940 in 2020 to 25,411 in 2021, posting a 16% increase.

Preliminary data reported by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration show that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2021 increased by about 325 billion miles, or about 11.2%, as compared to 2020. Data estimates show the fatality rate for 2021 was 1.33 fatalities per 100 million VMT, marginally down from 1.34 fatalities in 2020. While the fatality rate continued to rise in the first quarter, it declined in the other three quarters of 2021, compared to 2020.

The data also reveal a 13% increase both in pedestrian fatalities and in crashes involving at least one large truck, a 9% rise in motorcycle fatalities and a 5% bump in bicyclist fatalities.

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