Motor vehicle collisions have long been one of the top causes of catastrophic injuries and accidental fatalities in the United States. Unfortunately, there is now alarming evidence that car accidents are rising nationwide—reversing a multi-decade trend.
In May 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published its preliminary highway safety data for 2021. Nearly 43,000 people were killed in automobile accidents in the United States last year. That is the most in any year since 2005. In this article, our North Carolina car accident lawyer provides an overview of the latest federal data on motor vehicle collisions.
The Headline: Car Accidents Fatalities Jumped By More than 10 Percent Last Year
The federal government reports that 10.5 percent more people were killed in car accidents in 2021 than in 2020. There was a proportional rise in serious motor vehicle accident injuries. In total, at least 42,915 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States last year. There were broad regional increases. With 44 of the 50 U.S. states reporting a rise in the number of car accident fatalities. The biggest spikes were as follows:
- A 15 percent increase in traffic deaths in urban areas
- A 13 percent increase in pedestrian fatalities
- A 13 percent increase in deadly crashes involving a large truck
The sharp increase in catastrophic car crashes from 2020 to 2021 was caused primarily by an increase in the number of total vehicle miles driven. In Match of 2020, there was a steep drop-off in driving throughout the country as the COVID-19 pandemic first hit communities. By the later part of the year, the rate of driving had returned back to normal.
Car Accident Rates Skyrocketed During the Pandemic, Have Not Come Back Down
While the rate of driving decreased in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding public health restrictions, the rate of car crashes skyrocketed. As reported by the National Safety Council (NSC), the year-over-year increase in the car accident fatality rate in 2020 was the largest in the 96-year history of federal highway data. NHTSA reports that there were 1.34 car accident fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the United States in 2020.
There was a hope among highway safety officials in North Carolina and throughout the country that the rate of car accident deaths would drop once driving volume returned to normal. Sadly, that was not the case. NHTSA reports a preliminary rate of 1.33 car accident fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled nationwide in 2021. While the rate of driving has rebounded, the rate of catastrophic car crashes has not dropped. This means thousands more deaths and many tens of thousands more serious injuries.
North Carolina is No Exception (Car Accident Deaths Rising Rapidly)
Virtually every region in the country has seen a rise in the number of serious car crashes. North Carolina is no exception. According to data from U.S. News and World Report, there were 1,755 traffic deaths reported in North Carolina in 2021. That is the highest figure for any year in more than two decades. The state-specific data comes from the Highway Safety Program of the North Carolina Governor. Notably, the state actually saw a decrease in crashes related to work zones.
Risky Driving Behaviors are On the Rise in North Carolina
North Carolina data—similar to federal data—has consistently shown an increase in risky and dangerous driving behaviors since the start of the pandemic. The report notes that there have been more deadly and catastrophic accidents in North Carolina related to:
- Distracted driving
- Intoxicated driving
- Failure to wear a seat belt.
These risky driving behaviors are some of the leading causes of serious car crashes in our region. To improve highway safety, a joint effort is required—from everyone from highway officials to individual drivers. We can do more to prevent accidents and save lives.
Contact Our North Carolina Auto Accident Attorneys Today
At Paynter Law, our North Carolina car accident lawyers have the skills and expertise that you can trust. With more than $500 million in verdicts and settlements recovered for our clients, we know how to get results in complex cases.
To set up a free, no-obligation initial legal consultation, connect with one of our North Carolina car accident lawyers today. With offices in Raleigh and Hillsborough, we handle motor vehicle accident injury claims in Wake County, Durham County, Orange County and throughout the State of North Carolina.