U.S. Road Travel Nearing Pre-Pandemic Levels – Federal Highway Administration Reports 14.5% Rise in June
By Space Coast Daily // August 30, 2021
In June, Americans traveled 14.5% more miles than in May, as rural driving surpassed pre-COVID-19 levels and more people returned to work or went on vacations.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, motorists clocked 282.5 billion miles in June, an increase of 35.7 billion miles over June 2020, indicating that road travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
In June, rural driving topped pre-pandemic levels for the first time since it began, but urban driving remained slightly below 2019 levels.
The average in rural areas rose from 2.93 billion per day in June 2019 to 2.97 billion miles per day. Meanwhile, in urban areas, the average is still slightly below, at 6.45 billion miles per day compared to 6.55 billion miles in 2019.
In 2020, road travel in the United States had declined by 13.2%, reaching an annual total of 2.83 trillion miles – the lowest since 2001.
The Northeast saw the highest increase in June – 19.9%. In the West, it was up 17.5%.
Traffic Fatalities on the Rise
Unfortunately, traffic fatalities are also on the rise. The estimated death toll for the first five months of 2021 is 17,360. This early projection represents a 20% increase over 2020 and a 16% increase over 2019.
In May 2021, there were 4,050 motor vehicle fatalities, a 21% increase from May 2020 and a 19% increase from May 2019.
Even during the height of the pandemic in 2020, traffic accidents had gone up despite the massive decline in miles driven.
NHTSA’s investigation showed that impaired driving, speeding, and not wearing a seatbelt were the top factors contributing to the increase.
After Texas and California, Florida is in the third position on the list of states with the most car accidents in 2021.
Just last week, a fatal car wreck in Houston forced the closure of the Katy Freeway near Barker Cypress for several hours, while here in Florida, a fatal head-on crash shut down State Road 46.
In light of these statistics, Lorraine M. Martin, president and chief executive of the National Safety Council, underlined the importance of addressing roadway safety holistically and effectively.
Along with over 1,500 other organizations and individuals, the National Safety Council wrote to President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging them to commit to zero roadway deaths.
To achieve this goal, the safety group recommends:
■ Widespread and equitable implementation of safety laws, policies, and infrastructure development;
■ Making ignition interlock devices compulsory for individuals with DUI convictions;
■ Increasing public awareness around impaired driving;
■ Lowering state BAC to.05;
■ Lowering speed limits;
■ Increasing the use of automated enforcement systems;
■ Enacting legislation prohibiting all cell phone usage, including hands-free, by all drivers, not just teenagers;
■ Increasing the primary enforcement of seat belt legislation and requiring seat belts for all passengers in all vehicles;
■ Extending graduated driver licensing to apply to all new drivers under the age of 21;
■ Making Automated Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) more widely available and accelerating their adoption;
■ Enacting or re-enacting motorcycle helmet legislation;
■ Implementing a comprehensive pedestrian and cycling safety program across all communities and municipalities.