NHTSA: Deadliest Start to Year on Roads in More Than a Decade

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released estimates showing that the first quarter of this year was the deadliest start on the nation's roads since at least 2009.

From January to March of this year, an estimated 8,730 people were killed in car crashes nationwide, a 10.5% increase over the same period last year despite a decrease in miles driven. The death rate per 100 million miles driven also rose to 1.26, up from 1.12 over the first three months of 2020.

Seven of the nine NHTSA regions saw an increase in fatalities during the first three months of this year compared to the previous year. NHTSA Region 9, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, saw a 7% increase in traffic fatalities.

NHTSA attributes the higher death rate to drivers speeding, getting behind the wheel when they are impaired, and not wearing seat belts.

"These new statistics are another troubling result of the dangerous driving that has plagued U.S. roads since the start of the pandemic," Pam Shadel Fischer, senior director of external engagement at the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), said in a statement.

Traffic Cone

NHTSA also released an updated version of the Countermeasures That Work guide that provides communities with suggestions and strategies on improving highway safety. 

"The numbers are troubling and unacceptable," OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. "We will use every available tool to address the soaring number of deaths on our roads and bring the numbers down."