Surge in Traffic Deaths in First Quarter of 2021 Reinforces Need to Focus on Proven Countermeasures

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News Releases

September 2, 2021

CONTACT: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930
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Statement by Pam Shadel Fischer, Senior Director of External Engagement, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 8,730 people were killed on U.S. roadways in the first quarter of 2021 – a 10.5% increase from the same period last year. Traffic deaths rose significantly even though there was 2.1% decline in vehicle miles traveled.

These new statistics are another troubling result of the dangerous driving that has plagued U.S. roads since the start of the pandemic. State Highway Safety Offices are working with their partners to ramp up countermeasures – such high-visibility enforcement of life-saving traffic laws – which are proven to address speeding, drunk and drug-impaired driving, and seat belt use. But too many motorists fail to recognize their risky driving poses a threat to themselves and others. These drivers must understand that people are dying needlessly on our roadways and they can help prevent these crashes by slowing down, stowing their cell phones, always driving sober and buckling up.

We must use every available tool – including equitable enforcement, community outreach, and infrastructure improvements – to address this problem. The newest Countermeasures That Work publication, which was released today by NHTSA and originally developed for the agency by GHSA, showcases a comprehensive approach to eliminating highway deaths and improving safety for all road users. We also urge NHTSA to take the necessary steps to remove administrative barriers that prevent the implementation of federally grant-funded highway safety programs.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.