Traffic deaths increased in 2021 in Alabama and nationwide

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:04 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The number of traffic fatalities increased across the country last year, including in Alabama.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes killed more people in the United States in 2021 than any year since 2005. NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.

Benjamin McManus, the assistant director of Translational Research for Injury Prevention Laboratory (TRIP Lab), says though it wasn’t as high as the national increase, Alabama saw 6% more traffic fatalities in 2021 than in 2020.

“It wasn’t too entirely unexpected that we would see an increase just because there was a lot fewer people on the roads for a large portion of 2020,” said McManus. “The number one cause for these motor vehicle collisions is human error and the number one cause of human error is inattention.”

Last year, there seemed to be more human error leading to more deaths.

McManus told WBRC that the state’s crash fatalities of 987 in 2021 is the highest since 2016 (1,083) and 2nd highest fatality count between 2008-2021. Alabama’s highest year of fatalities was in 2006 (1,207) for comparison, said McManus.

He believes the increase in 2021 could be a result of people changing their driving behavior during the pandemic.

“Because there were fewer people on the road, there was a behavioral aspect,” said McManus. “People thought they had more room for error and they were actually doing some more risky behaviors while there were fewer people on the roads.”

Some of those risky behaviors can include speeding or distracted driving.

McManus believes those behaviors carried over into 2021 when more people were on the roads.

“Some of the good news is that although we saw this increase in 2021 early on, as we went further into 2021, it started to level off a little bit which makes us suspect that we’re getting back to ‘normal,’” said McManus.

He says drivers can improve their attention on the road by simply making the conscious decision. McManus adds while most people believe they can multi-task, research shows that’s not actually the case.

The best thing to do to keep you and your passengers safe is to keep your mind and your eyes on the road.


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