The roads in Mississippi and around the country are getting deadlier. Traffic accident deaths have generally been on the rise since 2011, and they now kill more Americans than gun violence, suicide and other types of incidents combined. Improvements in road design and advances in automobile safety technology have reduced road fatalities significantly in most other developed countries, but the death toll in the United States continues to rise.
NHTSA figures paint a grim picture
According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2021 was the deadliest year on American roads since 2005. Car and truck accidents claimed 42,915 lives in 2021, and vulnerable groups were hit particularly hard. Pedestrian deaths rose by 13%, cyclist fatalities increased by 5% and motorcyclist deaths were up by 9%. The figures are shocking but not surprising. NHTSA released preliminary data that put the number of road deaths during the first six months of 2021 at more than 20,000, so an annual death toll of over 40,000 was expected.
America the outlier
While traffic fatalities in the United States are rising, motor vehicle accident fatalities in the rest of the developed world are falling. When the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranked countries by per capita road deaths, the United States trailed far behind Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and almost all European countries.
The NHTSA data also reveals that a worryingly large number of deadly crashes are caused by reckless behavior. Speed-related fatalities and deadly accidents involving drunk drivers both rose by 5% in 2021, and road deaths surged by 7% in 2020 despite nationwide travel restrictions largely because drivers saw empty roads as an invitation to ignore speed limits and flout driving laws. If Americans do not learn to drive more responsibly, accident fatalities will likely continue to increase.