You may recall that 2020 brought a strange twist to roadways around the country. With early pandemic restrictions and extended periods of remote work even after official shutdowns ended, there were fewer cars on the road and fewer miles driven. Still, traffic deaths increased by more than 7%, to 38,680. That was the largest number of traffic deaths in the U.S. since 2007.
Some experts suggested that the increase was due at least in part to drivers taking fewer precautions on the less-crowded roads, and data seems to support that. In 2020, there were increases in accidents involving impaired drivers, speed-related crashes, and crashes in which the occupants were not wearing seatbelts.
In 2021, despite the fact that many remained free of the daily commute, the roads sprang back to life. 2021 vehicle miles traveled rebounded nearly to pre-pandemic levels. And traffic deaths continued to climb.
2021 Traffic Death Statistics
The preliminary report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projects that 42,915 people died in traffic on U.S. roads last year. That’s up about 10.5% from the already-high 2020 fatalities, and the largest number of traffic deaths in more than 15 years.
The trends reported in 2020 continued. In 2021 there were additional increases in fatal crashes involving alcohol, in speed-related fatal crashes, and in fatal crashes in which occupants were not wearing seat belts. In other words, risky behaviors that appear to have become more common on emptier roads during the pandemic don’t seem to be falling away. Now, heavier traffic has been added to the mix.
2021 also saw notable increases in traffic fatalities:
- During the day
- On the weekend
- Among females
- In motorcyclists
- In pedestrians
- In bicyclists
- In large truck crashes
Traffic deaths increased in all age groups from 25 to 54 and in those aged 65 and older.
Ohio Traffic Deaths
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), fatal traffic crashes in Ohio followed the national trend. Both the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and the number of traffic fatalities increased from 2019 to 2020, and then increased again from 2020 to 2021. In total, Ohio traffic deaths increased by 17.4% from 2019 to 2021.
What about Non-Fatal Crashes?
In 2020, non-fatal traffic crashes declined, both nationwide and in Ohio. This decrease was likely due to the smaller number of cars on the road and the significantly decreased number of miles traveled. In 2020, vehicle miles traveled across the country dropped by about 430 billion miles.
Federal data for 2021 isn’t yet available, but in Ohio, the total number of traffic crashes has rebounded somewhat. From 2019 to 2020, the total number of reported crashes dropped by just over 50,000. In 2021, that number increased by about 24,000, but remained significantly lower than pre-pandemic counts.
What Does the Increase in Traffic Fatalities Mean for Ohio Drivers?
First, be careful on the road. While you should always take precautions when driving, the mounting number of traffic deaths–especially those attributable to careless actions such as driving while intoxicated, speeding, and not wearing seatbelts–highlights the importance of staying vigilant on the road. And that doesn’t just mean refraining from drinking and driving or making sure to observe the speed limit.
Protect yourself and be prepared for others on the road to be taking more risks. For example, make sure to maintain safe following distances and change lanes if an aggressive driver is following you too closely. Don’t assume that other drivers will act as you would–many accidents happen in part because one driver guessed wrong about what another was about to do.
Stay attentive on the road. When you’re traveling at a high rate of speed on the highway, you cover a significant distance in just a few seconds, so you can’t afford to take your eyes off the road. On lower-speed residential roads, there’s a greater risk of a child, dog, or object entering the road–meaning you also can’t afford to take your eyes off the road in that setting.
Reaction time is always critical on the road, and that’s all the more true when other drivers are engaging in more risky behavior. So, err on the side of caution and stay off the road if you’re fatigued or your attention is affected by illness, medication, or other variables. And of course, always wear your seatbelt.
Injured By or Lost a Loved one to an Ohio Motor Vehicle Crash?
In most traffic “accidents,” someone is at fault. Usually, it’s one or more of the drivers involved. In two of the three types of pandemic-era fatal traffic crashes described here, the negligence is readily apparent. A driver who is operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who is significantly exceeding the speed limit isn’t exercising appropriate care for the safety of others sharing the road.
The same is true for other common risky behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving while fatigued, or driving with bad tires or seriously worn brakes.
If you’ve been injured on the road or you have lost a loved one to a traffic accident because someone else was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation. Not sure who was at fault? An experienced motor vehicle crash attorney can help you determine who may be responsible and advise as to whether you may share in legal responsibility for the accident.
At Plevin & Gallucci, we’ve been helping people hurt in automobile accidents secure fair compensation for decades. We offer free, no-obligation consultations so you can gather the information you need in a risk-free setting. To schedule yours, just call 855-4PLEVIN or fill out the contact form on this site.