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As We Get Back Behind the Wheel, a 'Terrible Situation'

8 states saw at least a 30% increase in driving deaths in first half of 2021
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2021 5:50 PM CDT
In These 8 States, a Major Spike in Driving Deaths
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/kadmy)

(Newser) – We're still in the midst of a pandemic, but over the past year, more of us headed back to in-person work, school, and other activities, meaning more of us were again driving. New data from two major safety groups, however, show that we could use some refresher courses behind the wheel, with a spike in car deaths in individual states and across the country overall.

  • US numbers: Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released new stats that showed an estimated 8,730 Americans died in car accidents in the first three months of 2021, reports Reuters. Compared to the 7,900 deaths seen during the same period in 2020, that's a 10.5% increase, even with a 2.1% decline in driving miles. Meanwhile, for all of 2020, there were nearly 39,000 traffic deaths—the largest annual total since 2007.
  • 8 states that saw a jump: CBS News pulls out states that experienced at least a 30% increase in car deaths in the first six months of 2021, compared with the same time period in 2020, per preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council. Those states, and their jumps, as follows: Oregon, with 261 deaths (51% increase); South Dakota with 65 (51%); Minnesota with 211 (41%); Idaho with 107 (39%); Nevada with 181 (38%); Utah with 150 (36%); Vermont with 28 (33%); and Tennessee with 682 (30%).
  • 6 states that saw a decline: Maine had just 54 deaths, a 22% drop, while Kansas had 166 (-19%), Alaska 22 (-8%), Rhode Island 32 (-6%), Connecticut 147 (-1%), and Wisconsin 242 (-1%).
  • Reasons: NHTSA regulators say fatality factors include people speeding and not wearing seat belts, impaired driving, and even motorists engaging in reckless behavior because they thought cops would be less likely to hand out tickets during a pandemic. National Transportation Safety Board chief Jennifer Homendy tells Reuters the rise in traffic deaths is a "terrible situation" that needs to be addressed ASAP.
  • Tips for safe driving: Toward Homendy's point, the NSC offers pointers. Waste360 details some of those tips, including buckling up, slowing down, and making it a priority to drive distraction-free.
Check out the full report here. (Read more fatal car crashes stories.)

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