The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is warning motorists to slow down. Alongside the announcement of its new “Speeding Wrecks Lives” campaign, NHTSA released new data revealing that while there has been a slight dip in overall roadway deaths, speeding fatalities reached a 14-year high in 2021.
Deaths caused by speeding made up almost one-third of all traffic fatalities.
The campaign, which runs through the end of July, is one of many ways the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is working to address the crisis of deaths on roadways across the country through its National Roadway Safety Strategy.
The NHTSA campaign is supported by a $9.6 million national media buy featuring English and Spanish-language ads running on television, radio, and digital platforms. The ads target drivers ages 18 to 44, who data show are most likely to be involved in speeding-related fatal crashes.
“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,” said Ann Carlson, acting NHTSA administrator. “NHTSA reminds everyone to slow down and arrive safely – it’s better to arrive a few minutes late than not at all.”
Many of the drivers in speeding-related crashes also engaged in other risky driving behaviors. Drivers in fatal crashes who were speeding also were impaired by alcohol more frequently than drivers who were not speeding. Additionally, more than half of speeding passenger-vehicle drivers were not wearing a seat belt, compared to 23% of non-speeding passenger-vehicle drivers.
Roadway Fatalities By the Numbers
NHTSA considers a traffic crash to be speeding-related if any driver in the crash was charged with a speeding-related offense or if a police officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.
One of the key findings of the report revealed that:
- 28% of fatal crashes,
- 13% of injury crashes, and
- 9% of property-damage-only crashes in 2021 were speeding-related traffic crashes.
In 2021, speeding-related crashes resulted in more than 12,000 fatalities, nearly one-third of the total traffic fatalities that year. It's an increase of 8% from the previous year, and the highest since 2007.
Additionally, nearly 330,000 people were injured in speeding-related crashes.
Thirty-five percent of male drivers and 21% of female drivers in the 15- to 20-year-old age group involved in fatal traffic crashes were speeding. That's the highest among the age groups.
Drivers who were speeding when involved in fatal traffic crashes had blood alcohol concentrations higher than the legal limit more frequently than drivers who were not speeding.
What About the School-Bus-Related Crash Data?
NHTSA's latest data on pupil-transportation-related fatality crashes, released in June 2023, analyzed data from 2012-2021. One of the data points collected was the vehicle maneuver that was made when pedestrians were killed.
Here is how that data breaks down. Out of the 156 deaths:
- 1 occurred when a school transportation vehicle was accelerating. 1 occurred when a non-school transportation vehicle was accelerating.
- 1 occurred when a school transportation vehicle was slowing.
- 15 occurred when a school transportation vehicle was going straight. 34 occurred when a non-school transportation vehicle going straight.
- 1 occurred when a non-school transportation vehicle passing or overtaking another vehicle.
Aside from vehicle maneuvers, the analysis did not include data on factors that caused the crashes. Some conclusions might be made about the factors, though, based on a few details:
- In most of the fatalities to vehicle occupants — in either school transportation vehicles or other vehicles involved — the fronts of the school transportation vehicles had impacts.
- More school-age pedestrians were killed between 6 and 7 a.m. than any other hours of the day.
- Almost one-fifth of school-age pedestrians killed in these crashes were struck by school transportation vehicles that were going straight.
- There were 113 occupants killed in school transportation vehicles; 52 were drivers, and 61 were passengers. Most of the people killed in school-transportation-related crashes were occupants of other vehicles.
- There were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians (183) than occupants of school transportation vehicles (113) in school-transportation-related crashes.
- Nearly three-quarters of school-age pedestrians killed in these crashes were not at intersections.
Pupil Transportation Organizations Respond to New Data
School Bus Fleet reached out to pupil transportation organizations after the report was released. We will update this section as we receive more responses.
National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) President Mike Simmons responded, noting the organization's own survey on illegal passing that was released on July 10. Using data from the 2022-2023 school year, NASDPTS officials estimate that the motoring public committed 43.5 million violations.
"With the release of this report from NHTSA as well as the NASDPTS 2023 Illegal Passing Survey of vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses, we hope all motorists will take this information to heart and slow down. All pedestrians and children boarding school buses every day deserve nothing less," Simmons said.