Getting a handle on motor vehicle fatalities

In an effort to create an annual census covering fatal motor vehicle accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its annual statistics covering road fatalities several years ago. The yearly study broke statistics into several categories, including crashes and vehicle types to specific roads.

Since that launch, researchers have continued to conduct in-depth analyses year-by-year to get a clear picture of what is going on throughout the nation’s freeways, highways, and back roads.

Road-related deaths are on the increase.

When looking at the most recent motor vehicle fatality stats, the year 2021 ended with 42,939 people losing their lives. Breaking down those fatalities reveal 39,508 actual collisions involving 61,332 motor vehicles. While 2019 saw a decline at 36,355, this is the second consecutive year of motor vehicle accident increases, with 39,007 in 2020, representing a ten percent growth.

Contributing and highly problematic factors in 2021 and previous years saw deaths due to alcohol and speeding. A lack of seatbelt use also played a role. Restraints were used by 90.4 percent of motor vehicle occupants in 2021. Occupants unrestrained while traveling in a motor vehicle are more likely to suffer fatal injuries than those who are restrained is not exactly “breaking news.”

The infallibility of seatbelts

However, buckled seatbelts did not save all lives. Of the vehicle occupants aged 13 and older in 2021 that died, 45 percent were belted drivers, and 43 percent were belted passengers, representing a 38 percent increase for drivers and 47 percent for passengers. Looking back at statistics in 1993, only 33 percent of drivers and 29 percent of passengers died, despite being belted.

In addition to the physical casualties throughout 2021, the economic costs for road fatalities ended the year at approximately $340 billion.

Traffic fatalities continue to be a problem that is desperately seeking a solution.