Statement on Alarming Crash Death Increases in 2021

  • February 1, 2022
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 301-442-2249 (C)

Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on Alarming Crash Death Increases in 2021

Latest motor vehicle crash fatality estimates affirm safety crisis and must lead to swift action by the U.S. Department of Transportation


During the first nine months of 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 31,720 people have been killed in motor vehicle crashes.  This is the highest number of projected fatalities during the first nine months of any year since 2006, and the largest percentage increase during the first nine months in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).  These figures are a national tragedy and require immediate action by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) which is responsible for ensuring our roadways are safe.  Proven and available solutions must be advanced without delay.

These grim statistics were released by the U.S. DOT less than a week after Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) which includes the objective of achieving zero traffic fatalities.  The path to this goal took a harsh detour today.  Immediate action on the advances mandated by Congress in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law by President Biden last November, and the key departmental actions in the NRSS is crucial.

The NRSS also noted that airbags and seat belts have prevented an estimated 425,000 traffic crash fatalities since they were first required by federal regulations.  The key points in this fact are that hundreds of thousands of people were saved and that these safety technologies were required.  Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which include automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind spot detection, have been reported to have real-world significant crash reductions by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) HERE.  Yet, they are not required.  They often are being sold as part of an additional, expensive trim package along with other non-safety features, or included as standard equipment in high end models or vehicles.  This practice hinders mass dissemination and safety equity by providing access only to those who can afford an upcharge of thousands of dollars.  Every family deserves the safest braking system.  Every consumer deserves assurances from the safety regulators that the systems meet minimum performance standards; this is not currently the case.

Everyone also deserves to travel on roads that are free from impaired drivers.  The IIJA requires U.S. DOT to issue a final rule within three years for passenger motor vehicles to be equipped with impaired driving prevention technology.  Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that more than 9,000 lives could be saved each year if this technology is widely used (HERE).  Language in the NRSS which “considers” a rulemaking effort is insufficient.  With nearly 30 percent of traffic fatalities involving impaired driving, the time for “considering” technological remedies should be far back in the rearview mirror.

We support Secretary Buttigieg’s commitment to zero fatalities and continue to urge him and his team to put the pedal to the metal to deliver on the NRSS actions and the Congressionally required IIJA mandates.

NOTE:  On Wednesday February 2, 2022, Advocates will testify before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, “The Road Ahead for Automated Vehicles.”  Embargoed copies of Cathy Chase’s written statement and results of a new public opinion survey on autonomous vehicles commissioned by Advocates are available to the media upon request.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.