As many as 42,060 people are estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes through 2020, an amount not seen since 2007, according to preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC).
This marks an 8% over the previous year, despite 2020 being a year where people drove significantly less frequently because of the pandemic, NSC said. The preliminary estimated rate of death on the roads last year spiked 24% over the previous 12-month period, despite miles driven dropping 13%. The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump that NSC has calculated since 1924.
An estimated 4.8 million additional roadway users were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, and the estimated cost to society was $474 billion, NSC added.
“It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “These data expose our lack of an effective roadway safety culture. It is past time to address roadway safety holistically and effectively, and NSC stands ready to assist all stakeholders, including the federal government.”
States also experienced dramatic swings in fatalities from year to year, according to the NSC preliminary data. Estimates indicate that only nine states saw a drop in deaths: Alaska (down 3%), Delaware (down 11%), Hawaii (down 20%), Idaho (down 7%), Maine (down 1%), Nebraska (down 9%), New Mexico (down 4%), North Dakota (down 1%) and Wyoming (down 13%).
Meanwhile, eight states experienced more than a 15% increase in the estimated number of deaths last year: Arkansas (up 26%), Connecticut (up 22%), District of Columbia (up 33%), Georgia (up 18%), Mississippi (up 19%), Rhode Island (up 26%), South Dakota (up 33%) and Vermont (up 32%).
Motor vehicle fatality estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as data mature. The National Safety Council uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the CDC, so that deaths occurring within 100 days of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in estimates, NSC said.