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U.S. Car Accident Fatalities Rise to 16-Year High

Vehicles driving across bridge on highway

Car accident deaths nationwide increased dramatically last year to the highest single-year total in decades, according to accident statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

"We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone — state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers, to join us," said Deputy NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "All of our lives depend on it."

Car accident fatalities increased in 2021

For the second consecutive year, the number of people killed in car accidents increased nationwide. In 2019, U.S. car accident fatalities reached a record low. However, despite fewer drivers on the road due to the pandemic, car accident deaths increased by 7.2 percent in 2020. That increase was the largest single-year increase in motor vehicle accident deaths "since just after World War II," according to The New York Times.

Then came 2021. Last year, 42,915 people died in car accidents across the country. That's a 10.5 percent increase and the most car accident fatalities nationwide since 2005. Last year's increase was also the most significant single-year increase in car accident deaths since the NHTSA began collecting accident data in 1975.

Fatal car accidents in OH, PA, & WV

Like the rest of the country, car accident deaths in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia increased last year. According to statistics compiled by the NHTSA, here's what happened in those three states:

  • Ohio – 1,351 car accident fatalities last year, a 9.8 percent increase compared to 2020, when 1,230 people died in car accidents. Last year's death toll was the highest in more than a decade in Ohio.
  • Pennsylvania – 1,234 car accident deaths last year, a 9.3 percent increase compared to 2020, when 1,129 people were killed in car crashes. The 2021 figure was the highest death toll in Pennsylvania since 2012.
  • West Virginia – 293 people were killed in car accidents last year, a 9.7 percent increase compared to 2020 when 267 people died in car crashes.

Why car accidents happen

Car accident fatalities increased last year for many different reasons. According to the NHTSA, several common contributing factors increased last year, including:

  • Speeding (5 percent increase in speeding-related accidents in 2021 compared to 2020 nationwide)
  • Drinking and driving (5 percent increase in alcohol-related accidents last year)
  • Fewer people wearing seatbelts (3 percent increase last year in fatal car accidents involving unrestrained drivers or passengers not wearing seatbelts)

Due to such factors and many others, certain types of car accidents increased dramatically last year, such as:

  • Urban car accident fatalities (16 percent increase)
  • Multi-vehicle crashes (16 percent higher)
  • Fatal car accidents involving one or more large trucks (13 percent increase)
  • Pedestrian fatalities (13 percent higher)

How a car accident lawyer can help

Having an experienced attorney on your side can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your case. Instead of insurance companies pressuring you into accepting a lowball settlement offer or denying your claim outright, your attorney can advocate for your best interests and fight for the compensation you deserve.

We know how to handle complicated car accidents at Recht Law Offices. Founded in 1952, our law firm has years of experience dealing with complex legal cases.

Get the law firm that gets results. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced car accident lawyer. We have offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Weirton, West Virginia, and handle injury claims in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. We also offer legal representation on contingency. That means you pay no fees unless we secure a financial settlement or verdict for you. Call us now to learn more. We can help.

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