Feds: Crash deaths up across U.S., with Pa. keeping pace

Of the 1,230 crash-related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2021, 27% or 337 deaths, were due to drunken drivers

By: - April 10, 2023 11:14 am

(Screen Capture via WFMZ-TV)

By Sherry Stone

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation nearly 43,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2021, the highest since 2005, with deaths due to speeding and impaired driving on the rise.

The 2023 report from the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, says the estimated number of police-reported traffic crashes increased from 5.25 million in 2020 to 6.10 million in 2021 — a 16% increase. Total vehicle miles travelled increased by 8.1% from 2,904 billion in 2020 to 3,140 in 2021.

Some of the key findings: The biggest increases in crash-related fatalities, nationally, involved alcohol-impaired drivers (up 14%); there was a 14% increase in urban-setting crashes as opposed to rural-driving-accidents (up just 4.7%) and most of the crashes involved female drivers (up 12%) as opposed to male drivers (up 9.2%). Notably, there was a 14% bump in driving fatalities for people 65 and older.

All of those accidents mean pedestrians need to be more careful crossing the street: There was a 13% increase in pedestrian-involved fatalities. As for time of day: more fatal accidents occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 p.m. — up 11% — since 2020. Daytime fatal accidents (6 a.m.- 5:59 p.m.) were up 9.7%.

Speeding and failure to use a seat belt were top causes of on-the road fatalities right behind alcohol impairment. Seat-belt nonuse deaths increased 8.1% and speeding-related fatalities were up 7.9%. Nearly 8% of accidents involved motorcyclists.

While nearly 43,000 people died in car crashes in 2021, says, “The Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2021,” published April 2023. Nearly two and a half million people were injured in car accidents. Nonfatal crashes were up 8.4%, overall.

Pennsylvania’s fatality rates were only a little better than the national average, say the latest statistics on road safety.

Of the 1,230 crash-related fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2021, 27% or 337 deaths, were due to drunken drivers.

Nationally, the average death-rate due to drunken drivers was 31%, meaning 13,384 Americans died due to to alcohol-related crashes in 2021.

In Pennsylvania, 112 of those who died in car-crashes in 2020 were non-Hispanic African Americans.

“We must end the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety. Everyone — including those who design, operate, build and use the road systems — share responsibility for road safety,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, acting administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Cliff said drivers “engaged in risky behaviors including speeding, failing to wear seat belts and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” These are “driving patterns and behaviors” that Americans are going to have to work on.

In “Counter Measures that Work,” issued by the NHTSA, best ways to address the increase in driving fatalities include strengthening and enforcing drug and alcohol laws — from license revocation or suspension, to imposing penalties for refusing breathalyzer tests. It also advocated enforcing minimum age 21 laws for buying alcohol and checking to make sure that alcohol venders are checking identification.

Suggestions also included increasing awareness about booster seats for young children and seatbelt-safety young people. Speeders need to slow near schools, parks and neighborhood roads.

Sherry Stone is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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