Speeding Car Accidents Account for One-in-Three Fatalities on U.S. Roadways

Federal highway data indicates drivers under age 20 are especially at risk of speeding related accident deaths.

New statistics from federal highway safety officials indicates that speeding has caused a record number of deaths in recent years, despite an overall drop in fatalities on U.S. roadways.

Following a two year surge in traffic deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, recent projections have shown a steady decline in fatalities on U.S. roadways. However, speeding car accidents continue to pose a serious threat to the safety of motorists and pedestrians.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released new data last week, which which found that speeding accounted for 29% of all car accident fatalities nationwide in 2021, resulting in the largest number of speeding car accident deaths than was seen in any of the preceding 14 years.

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Speeding a Significant Danger for High Risk Demographics

According to the new NHTSA data, 12,330 people were killed in speed-related crashes in 2021, which is an 8% increase from 2020. Speed-related traffic fatalities have not been that high since 2007.

The data shows that speeding crash deaths in 2021 also varied substantially based on vehicle type, driver demographics, and driver behavior. Motorcycles were overrepresented in 2021 speed-related traffic deaths at 33%; more than any other vehicle type.

Young drivers in the 15-20 age group comprised up to 35% of 2021 speed related traffic deaths, the highest among all age groups according to the data. That statistic aligns with prior research showing nearly half of all teen driving deaths result from speeding.

Many drivers in speeding-related crashes in 2021 also engaged risky driving behaviors known to increase chances of a fatal accident, the NHTSA warns. Drivers in fatal speeding crashes had blood alcohol contents over the legal limit more often than drivers who weren’t speeding.

Additionally, more than half of speeding passenger vehicle drivers who died in a traffic crash were not wearing a seat belt, compared to 23% of non-speeding passenger vehicle drivers who were killed.

NHTSA Campaign to Reduce Speeding Accidents

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce speed related traffic deaths nationwide, the NHTSA recently completed a study examining roadways for speed related problems. The findings suggested that the number of speeding motorists on a roadway was a statistically significant crash predictor. However, researchers concluded that the overall number of vehicles on the road can increase without resulting in more crashes if the additional vehicles are traveling within the posted speed limit.

Researchers also found that decoy (unoccupied) law enforcement vehicles, more traffic citations, and digital speed signs can all contribute to reduced speed at deployed locations, even once they are removed from those locations.

In conjunction with the new data, the NHTSA announced its annual “Speeding Wrecks Lives” campaign on July 10. The campaign, which will run from July 10-31, will incorporate a $9.6 million dollar English and Spanish language television, radio, and digital campaign. It specifically targets high risk speed-related fatality demographics, including drivers in the 18-44 age group.

“Speeding accounts for nearly one-third of all fatalities on our roads and puts everyone at risk, including people in other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and people with disabilities,” Acting Administrator Carlson said in a press release. “NHTSA reminds everyone to slow down and arrive safely – it’s better to arrive a few minutes late than not at all.”

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