38 States See Traffic Fatalities Rise as Feds Pledge Help to Reverse Trend

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged to make the roads safer as the number of traffic deaths in the U.S. increased in over half the states within the first nine months of 2021.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Buttigieg said the increasing trend in fatal traffic accidents is an unacceptable crisis. He said the Department of Transportation plans on using grants for the next two years to encourage states to use speed cameras, lower speed limits, and implement bike and bus lanes to make the roads safer.

"We cannot tolerate the continuing crisis of roadway deaths in America. These deaths are preventable," Buttigieg said in a statement.

According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Tuesday, an estimated 31,720 people died in vehicle traffic crashes nationwide between January through September 2021, up 12 percent from the year before.

A total of 38 states saw a rise in traffic fatalities from 2020 to 2021, with Idaho, Nevada and Oregon leading with the highest percentage change. The District of Columbia and 10 other states saw a decrease in traffic fatalities while two states saw no changes, according to the data.

Idaho traffic fatalities reached a 15-year-high in 2021, per The Idaho Statesman. The federal report said at least 206 people were killed in 2021, an increase of 36.4 percent from the year before. Newsweek reached out to the Idaho State Police for comment but they have not responded.

Nevada reported an estimated 290 traffic fatalities in 2021, an increase of 30 percent from the year before. Oregon had at least 441 fatalities, an increase of 29.3 percent compared to 2020, according to the report.

Texas and California reported the most traffic fatalities with 3,365 and 3,247, respectively, the data read.

Prior to 2019, traffic fatalities dropped for three consecutive years, the AP reported. Then they increased in 2019, with the NHTSA attributing the rise to reckless driving behavior amid the pandemic.

The new data comes days after the Department of Transportation announced the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) to address the crisis with traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

The department said the NRSS would work with President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law to improve the safety of motor vehicles on the road by offering $6 billion for the Safe Streets and Roads for All program and $4 billion in additional funding for the Highway Safety Improvement program.

"No longer can we as a society accept traffic deaths as routine. Every life lost is a tragedy, and we all can, should, and must do more to change the culture," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Dr. Steve Cliff in a statement.

Rise in Traffic Deaths in the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the rise of traffic deaths in the U.S. was an unacceptable crisis after 38 states saw an increase within the first nine months of 2021. Win McNamee/Getty Images