State Officials Confirm Historic Number of Crash Fatalities in 2021

BATON ROUGE – Newly released data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that there is an alarming trend of increased traffic fatalities nationwide. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) numbers show the state also had higher fatalities in 2021.

From a recently published press release, 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. The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history.”

In Louisiana, preliminary numbers are projecting 987 fatalities, which is a 19 percent increase from 2020 (828). This is the highest percentage change the state has experienced in one year since crash fatality records have been kept.

“The numbers are alarming,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “We saw the numbers increasing in 2021 and tried to remind drivers of the need for safety on our roadways. Many of these fatalities can be prevented by slowing down, putting down the phone, and wearing a seatbelt. The loss of nearly 1,000 people on our roadways is devastating to thousands more who are friends and family members of those who died.”

Early numbers for 2022 show there have been nearly 300 fatalities thus far. In 2021, NHTSA cited speeding and a reduction in seat belt usage as two of the many contributing factors to the increased numbers.

“In December of last year, we addressed fatalities on our roadways at a press conference with our safety partners after there were a reported 15 crashes with 20 fatalities on state highways over the Thanksgiving holiday from Nov. 24 to Nov. 29,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn. D. Wilson, Ph.D, who is also president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “The trend was not good at that time and the numbers continue to grow. Safety is the No. 1 concern. It’s disheartening to see this type of increase in fatalities even when vehicles are adding safety features, and local, state, and federal officials continue their efforts to make roadways safer. We need everyone to take safety seriously and to drive with the knowledge that crashes can occur at any time. Be aware, be safe, and be smart.”

The largest contributing factors to statewide crash fatalities in 2021 were:

  • 530 roadway departures
  • 390 alcohol-involved
  • 338 no restraint
  • 245 young-driver (15-24) involved
  • 227 distracted or inattentive

Some of these involved multiple factors, such as a young driver in an alcohol-related crash. All of the factors listed above are emphasis areas for the state highway safety plan that DOTD is updating.

With the increase in statewide crash fatalities, DOTD is urging motorists to exercise extreme caution.

“The consequences of poor decisions while driving or riding in a motor vehicle affect not only those involved, but also an unmeasurable number of family members and friends when a devastating crash occurs,” said Colonel Lamar Davis, Louisiana State Police superintendent. “Troopers will continue to work closely with our public safety partners, but the goal of reducing crashes and saving lives can only be accomplished through a partnership with the motoring public. In conjunction with increased enforcement and public safety educational campaigns, we need all drivers and occupants to always remain properly restrained, avoid all distractions behind the wheel, and never drive at unsafe speeds or while impaired. Together we can make a difference and save lives.”

“Louisiana has seen a steady and tragic increase in traffic deaths and injuries since 2020,” said Lisa Freeman, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission executive director. “At the center of this devastating trend are risky behaviors by drivers and other road users. That means that the vast majority of fatal injuries are completely preventable. The difference between good outcomes and fatal outcomes on Louisiana roadways begins and ends with good decisions. The most impactful of those good decisions begins with an “always” mindset: always designate a sober driver, always focus on the task of driving, and always wear a seat belt regardless of seating position or the length of your trip.”


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