The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a stark warning in late October that soaring traffic deaths across the United States are not acceptable as a part of “everyday life in America.”
That’s after the agency announced that traffic fatalities surged by more than 18% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period the year before.
Traffic deaths register largest six-month increase ever
As lockdowns ended due to the pandemic, motorists returned to roadways across Illinois and the rest of the country. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports risky behaviors seen during the pandemic didn’t subside. The NHTSA released these startling statistics:
- 20,160 people died in car crashes between January and June of this year
- That’s an increase of 3,140 fatalities from the same period in 2020
- Traffic density increased by 13% compared to the year before
Crash deaths are also on the rise in Illinois
The Prairie State isn’t immune from this disturbing national trend. The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that as of Nov. 3:
- 1,064 traffic fatalities were reported
- That’s an increase of 67 from the same period last year
A majority of traffic deaths in Illinois involve motorcyclists and pedestrians, and nearly half of these accidents happened on city streets, followed by state highways and interstates.
Driver behaviors aren’t changing
When the pandemic began in 2020, fewer drivers were on the roadways, but many motorists engaged in riskier behavior. Unfortunately, as traffic returned to normal levels, the behaviors didn’t change. The NHTSA says speeding, drunk driving and motorists not wearing seat belts were higher in the first part of 2021 than before the pandemic.
The Transportation Department says the dangerous conditions on the road cannot become routine. The agency plans to release its National Roadway Safety Strategy early next year. The plan contains an extensive list of actions that seek to reduce fatalities and serious injuries.