Calling it a crisis of safety on our roadways, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has sounded the alarm at the sharp increase in auto fatalities in the first six months of 2021.
The estimated number was 18.4% higher than the first half of last year, prompting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to call the increase an unacceptable crisis.
That percentage increase was the biggest six-month increase since the department began recording fatal crash data since 1975.
The department, which includes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, announced that it will develop a national strategy for steps to save lives on the roads.
“We cannot and should not accept these fatalities as simply a part of everyday life in America,” Buttigieg said in a statement Thursday. “No one will accomplish this alone. It will take all levels of government, industries, advocates, engineers and communities across the country working together toward the day when family members no longer have to say good-bye to loved ones because of a traffic crash.”
Some experts have attributed the sharp increase to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to fewer drivers on the road coupled with driver inattention. Now that drivers have returned to the roads, that same inattention and reckless driving habits have taken a deadly turn.
NHTSA also said that behavioral research from March through June showed that speeding and traveling without a seat belt remain higher than before the coronavirus pandemic. The agency has pointed to increasing road deaths, a trend for the last two years, on more reckless behavior on the roads.
Consumer groups have been urging the agency to move more quickly to boost road safety, pointing to increasing accidents and a yearslong backlog in implementing safety rules. An Associated Press review earlier this month of rule-making by NHTSA found at least 13 auto-safety rules past due, including a rear seat belt reminder requirement passed by Congress in 2012 that was to be implemented by 2015.
Locally, a corresponding spike in auto accidents and fatalities has been reported as well.
A new report by QuoteWizard has found that traffic fatalities in New York have increased since 2020. The report shows that fatal crashes are up 13% in the first half of 2021.
In the first half of 2020, there were 351 traffic fatalities in New York. In the first half on 2021, the number of fatalities was 398. Traffic fatalities are also up 19% from 2019.