This is a crisis: Road fatalities are at their highest level in 15 years

Although fewer Americans are dying from Covid-19, another deadly catastrophe is on the rise: death by cars.

There were an estimated 20,160 traffic deaths in the first six months of 2021, the highest total for that period since 2006 and 18.4 percent higher than in the first half of last year, according to the The latest numbers of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This is the largest increase in road accident deaths in the first half of the year since the U.S. Department of Transportation began recording fatal road accident data in 1975, the Associated Press reports.

The United States has put on pace more than 40,000 traffic deaths this year alone, with 15 states and Puerto Rico accounting for half of road deaths, according to the department.

Public health experts say the sudden rise in deaths on the road is closely linked to a pandemic that has left millions of Americans trapped, stressed and looking for ways to escape their isolation.

“Although there is not a single causative factor, it is likely that reckless behavior is a confluence of increased drug and alcohol use, lack of safety restrictions (such as seat belts and texting), and greater opportunities for speeding and reckless driving due to fewer cars on the road,” said Karl Menges, Dean. Interim at the University of New Haven School of Health Sciences, “It’s connected to feelings of liberation.”

The new death toll has raised alarm bells in Washington and prompted calls for a national strategy in response.

“This is a crisis,” the Minister of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said In a statement Thursday. “We cannot and should not accept that these deaths are simply part of everyday life in America.”

“It will take all levels of government, industries, advocates, engineers and communities across the country to work together toward the day family members no longer have to say goodbye to loved ones because of a traffic accident.”

It may also require strict action against speeding drivers and people who refuse to wear seat belts.

Behavioral research from March to June found that more people were ignoring the speed limit and fewer people were using seat belts, according to the Traffic Safety Agency.

This has emerged in a trend of reckless behavior on the roads, which has coincided with the pandemic, the agency said.

“The report is concerning. It is also a reminder of what hundreds of millions of people can do every day, right now, to combat this: slow down, wear seat belts, drive calmly, and avoid distractions behind the wheel,” said agency deputy director Stephen Cliff. , in the current situation. “We must all work together to stop aggressive and dangerous driving and help prevent fatal accidents.”

The writing was already written on the wall in June when the Traffic Safety Agency reported that traffic deaths increased by more than 7 percent in 2020, the largest increase in 13 years, even though people have driven fewer miles due to the pandemic.

The agency said the increase in the past year was due to drivers taking more risks on less-congested roads at speed, not wearing seat belts or driving while disabled by drugs or alcohol.

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said law enforcement less focused on traffic was another factor.

“People rush because they can get away with it,” Adkins said.

National mobile phone addiction also plays a role, Mingis said.

“The effects of texting while driving on public health and safety have not been sufficiently discussed,” said Mingis, adding that during the pandemic, “people were generally glued to their phones and technology, primed to respond when they hear the ‘bing.’”

That sound “immediately switches to a distracted driving situation that leads to overspeeding, lane-crossing or an accident,” Mingis said.

Car deaths are up across the United States, but the biggest jumps have been in the South and West, according to traffic agency figures.

A car involved in a fatal accident was taken away in Burbank, California, on August 4. Hans Gutknecht / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The rise in deaths is also due to an increase in the number of cars people are driving.

173.1 billion vehicle miles were driven in the first six months of this year, a 13 percent increase over the same period last year, according to preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration.

The agency reported that the death rate in the first half of this year rose to 1.34 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven, up from 1.28 deaths in 2020.

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