2020 Traffic Fatalities: NHTSA Shows Increased Crash Fatalities During Pandemic

On June 3, 2021, the The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released preliminary estimates of crash fatalities in 2020.

Key Highlights

  • While Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, NHTSA’s early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes – a 7.2% increase over 2019 and the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.
  • Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles, or about a 13.2-percent decrease.
  • The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019.
  • NHTSA’s analysis shows that the main behaviors that drove this increase include: impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.
  • NHTSA’s projections show significant increases in fatalities during the third and fourth quarters of 2020 as compared to the corresponding quarters of 2019.
  • Passenger vehicle occupant traffic fatalities up 5% compared to 2019 (23,395).
  • Motorcyclist traffic fatalities up 9% compared to 2019 (5,015).
  • Fatalities in crashes involving a large truck (commercial or non-commercial use) are projected to decline marginally (down 2%).
  • Fatalities among older persons (65+ years of age) are projected to decline by about 9 percent.
  • NHTSA’s research suggests that throughout the national public health emergency and associated lockdowns, driving patterns and behaviors changed significantly, and that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in more risky behavior, including speeding, failing to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Read the full press release: 2020 Fatality Data Show Increased Traffic Fatalities During Pandemic

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