- How Many People Are Killed By Cars Each Year
- Technology Is Better Than Ever — But Thousands Of Americans Still Die In Car Crashes Every Year
- La Crash: At Least 4 People Killed, Including A Toddler, After A Fiery Collision At A Busy Windsor Hills Intersection
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How Many People Are Killed By Cars Each Year
A bus crash occurred in Brooklyn, New York. The pandemic has made driving more dangerous. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
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Marina Bolotnikova is the editor of Future Perfect. Prior to joining, she covered factory farming for national media outlets including The Guardian and The Intercept.
Driving is the most dangerous thing most Americans do every day. Nearly every American knows someone who has been injured in a car accident, and cars kill as many people as guns every year and cause millions of serious injuries.
This is a public health crisis in any year, and somehow this pandemic has only made it worse. Even though Americans have been driving less over the past year or so, the number of car crash fatalities, both for vehicle occupants and pedestrians, has increased significantly.
Car-related deaths were at 42, 060 in 2020, up from 39, 107 in 2019, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit focused on eliminating preventable deaths. (The National Safety Council’s numbers are generally higher than those reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the NSA includes car fatalities in private spaces like driveways and parking lots, and counts deaths that occurred within a year of the crash. death toll.)
Car Crash Statistics 
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This increase occurred despite vehicle miles being driven down 13% from the previous year. This is the largest single-year increase in auto fatalities in the U.S. in nearly a century, and 2021 could be even worse.
Between January and June of this year, the National Safety Council reported that car fatalities were up 16 percent from the same period last year, with dramatic increases in fatalities in areas as diverse as Texas and New York City. If this trend continues for the rest of the year, the national death toll will be the highest since 2006. Preliminary data from NHTSA estimates that vehicle fatalities will increase at a lower rate between January and March 2021 compared with the same period last year, but still a substantial increase of 10.5%.
According to several transportation experts I spoke with, the explanation for the 2020 spike in deaths is relatively simple: fewer cars were on the road during quarantine, and traffic jams all but disappeared, which encouraged people to drive at deadly speeds. Compared to 2019, more drivers involved in fatal crashes were also not wearing seat belts or driving under the influence.
Yearly Road Deaths Per Million People Across The Us And The Eu. This Calculation Includes Drivers, Passengers, And Pedestrians Who Died In Car, Motorcycle, Bus, And Bicycle Accidents. 2018 2019 Data 🇺🇸🇪🇺🗺️ [oc] :
But why has this year’s surge continued and worsened despite traffic volumes picking up and approaching pre-Covid-19 levels? We don’t completely know, but it seems to be related to the pandemic changing transportation patterns.
The surge in car deaths caused by the coronavirus should not obscure what was already a troubling fact before the pandemic: U.S. car deaths—both pedestrians and vehicle occupants—are a public health emergency.
Investigators investigate the scene of a collision between an SUV and a semi-truck on March 2 near Holtville, California. A vehicle full of passengers, including minors, collided with a large truck, killing at least 13 people. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
In a recent report on car fatalities among OECD countries, the United States ranked among the worst. Most of their U.S. counterparts have seen a clear downward trend in car fatalities over the past two decades: Belgium, France, Spain and the Czech Republic have had car fatality rates per capita that were similar to those in the United States in 2000, and have since fallen by more than half. Death rates in the United States have also declined over the same period, but not as much, and have begun to show signs of picking up over the past decade.
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As with many other leading causes of death, people of color are disproportionately affected. Compared to 2019, car-related deaths increased by 23% last year among Black Americans and 11% among Native Americans (while deaths among white Americans increased by 4%).
None of this is inevitable—traffic safety experts know the policy interventions needed to solve the problem. The continued surge in auto deaths during the pandemic should draw national attention to enacting these measures.
If the federal government were to implement a national program to significantly reduce car fatalities, a compelling starting point might be to prevent pedestrian deaths. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users and many of the environments they walk in are hazardous to motorists. Focusing on pedestrians will also make it safer for drivers.
The number of people killed by cars while walking has increased dramatically over the past decade, so much so that pedestrians account for the majority of the recent increase in car fatalities. There were 6,205 walking deaths in 2019, a 51% increase from 4,109 in 2009, according to NHTSA. (The National Safety Council estimated that 7,700 pedestrians died in 2019, a figure that was higher.)
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People who can’t afford a car are also less likely to live in walkable neighborhoods. Black Americans, Native Americans, wheelchair users and people walking in low-income areas are far more likely to be hit and killed by a car, a structural disparity that has been exacerbated during the pandemic.
But while pedestrians are vulnerable in any given incident, most U.S. car deaths do not involve them. More common is a collision between two or more cars, or just one car hitting an object such as a tree, pole, or storefront (this happens with high frequency in the United States).
Emergency crews investigate the scene where a car crashed into a pedestrian in Times Square on May 18, 2017 in New York City. Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Image
A makeshift memorial has been erected in Times Square for Alyssa Elsman, a young woman who died on May 18, 2017, when a car struck a pedestrian. Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Us Traffic Deaths Dip In Second Quarter But Remain High As Pandemic Eases
Car fatalities have worsened in all regions of the United States during the pandemic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatalities are increasing at about the same rate in urban and rural America, but fatalities in rural areas have been high and remained so in 2020. In a region that includes Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi, death rates are already above average, with rates up 7% in 2020 and rising in the first quarter of 2021 11%. In New England, which has the lowest auto fatality rate in the country, fatalities rose 9% in 2020 and 1% in the first quarter of 2021 and 1% in the first quarter of this year.
The tragedy of high road fatalities is not unique to the United States. Worldwide, car fatality rates are even higher than in the United States, especially in countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Cars kill 1.3 million people globally every year, more than murders and suicides combined, and most victims are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists rather than car passengers, who tend to be wealthier.
Renato Vieira, an economist at Catholic University, said road infrastructure in poor and middle-income countries is more dangerous, with poorer car safety, higher motorcycle use and physical differences between different types of traffic. Less segregation (e.g. bike lanes). brasilia.
Passengers riding in a truck surrounded by motorcyclists in Maharashtra, India, earlier this year. Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Technology Is Better Than Ever — But Thousands Of Americans Still Die In Car Crashes Every Year
“Motorcycles usually cycle between cars, so they’re much more dangerous,” Vieira said. “The accident rate for motorcycles is much higher and the fatality rate is much higher.”
The world has a lot of work to do if it is to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of halving car deaths by 2030. In the United States, this can start with improving our crash prevention strategies, which often place the blame on bad drivers while encouraging individuals to adopt safer behaviors. These strategies have their place, but the priority should be the interventions with the highest impact: making roads safer for everyone.
Speed is a determining factor in the severity of a car accident. Everything else—drunk driving, distracted driving, bad weather—makes a crash more likely, but speed is the difference between life and death, especially for pedestrians and cyclists without car armor. Pedestrians have a 10% chance of dying when hit by a car traveling at 23 mph; a 25% chance of dying when driving at 32 mph; and a 75% chance of dying when hitting a car traveling at 50 mph. .
A particularly dangerous type of road is a “sroad”: a place that tries to be dangerous, according to city engineer and city planner Charles Marohn.