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U.S. Car Accident Deaths Reached Record High in 2021

Bumper-to-bumper traffic on a New Hampshire highway.

Crash fatalities also spiked in New Hampshire last year.

Car accident fatalities reached a record high nationwide in 2021 as more drivers returned to the road following pandemic restrictions the year before, according to The Associated Press and based on a recent traffic study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Our nation has taken a dangerous and deadly step backwards in traffic safety and impaired driving,” Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Alex Otte said in an interview with The Associated Press. “More families and more communities are feeling the crushing magnitude of this crisis on our roads.”

Car accident deaths soar nationwide.

Before the pandemic started in 2020, U.S. car accident fatalities reached record lows in 2019, according to NHTSA data. Traffic safety officials initially expected those numbers to go down in 2020 since fewer drivers were on the road that year due to the pandemic. Instead, car accident fatalities soared to record highs in 2020.

Overall, 38,824 people died in car accidents in 2020. That figure was 7.2 percent higher compared to 2019, according to The New York Times. The following year, car accident fatalities set a record – 42,915 deaths in 2021. That figure was 10.5 percent higher, the largest single-year increase in car accident fatalities since 1975 when the NHTSA started collecting such statistics.

Combined, the two-year increase in car accident deaths in 2020 and 2021 was the biggest nationwide “since just after World War II,” The New York Times reported. That two-year increase “wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” officials from the Governors Highway Safety Association said in an interview with The Associated Press.

New Hampshire car accident fatalities also spike.

Like many states, car accident deaths in New Hampshire increased in 2020 and 2021, according to state and federal car accident statistics. In 2019, a total of 101 people were killed in car accidents in New Hampshire. The following year, the death toll in New Hampshire rose to 104. And last year, 123 people were killed in New Hampshire car accidents, an increase of 18.3 percent compared to 2020, according to the NHTSA.

Experts say car accident fatalities went up in the past two years for multiple reasons, but at the top of the list were serious crashes caused by speeding. Because fewer drivers were on the road in 2020 and parts of 2021, many people drove significantly faster.

Overall, speeding-related fatalities in the U.S. were 5 percent higher in 2021 compared to 2019. New Hampshire also had slightly more car accident deaths caused by speeding, as 37 people died in such crashes in 2020 compared to 35 in 2019.

According to the NHTSA, other reasons why car accident fatalities were higher in 2020 and 2021 include:

  • A 15 percent increase in rural interstate accidents.
  • A 5 percent increase in drunk driving accidents nationwide.

At Burns, Bryant, Cox, Rockefeller & Durkin, P.A., our car accident attorneys have been driving justice for New Hampshire’s injured for 150 years. As a result, we know what it takes to build a winning case in New Hampshire.

If you were injured in a New Hampshire car accident that was not your fault, we want to meet with you to review your legal rights and options. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our law firm. We have offices conveniently located in Dover and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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