PHOENIX — Despite fewer drivers on the road, driving in Arizona, and across the country, is becoming deadlier.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 8,730 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first three months of 2021, an increase of 10.5% from 2020 when there was an estimated 7,900 deaths from vehicle wrecks in the same time period.
In Arizona, there have been 750 deaths due to motor vehicle crashes through August, and is on pace for 1,125 deaths for the year, about 70 more from 2020 (1,054), according to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
In the same report, the NHTSA said drivers are driving billions of fewer miles.
"Miles traveled in the first three months of 2021 decreased by 2.1%, or about 14.9 billion miles," reported the NHTSA.
"It's not surprising," said Maria Wojtczak, Director of DriverMBA, a driving school and education program. "You still a lot of people still on cellphones, people just constantly in a hurry, in a rush. People just aren't paying attention."
"There’s less cars on the highway so more speed, more inattention and distracting, more people that take red lights which is horrendous," said Albert Guthier, Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
"We must address the tragic loss of life we saw on the roads in 2020 by taking a transformational and collaborative approach to safety. Everyone - including those who design, operate, build and use the road system - shares responsibility for road safety," said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA's Acting Administrator. "We are working closely with our safety partners to address risky driving behaviors such as speeding, impaired driving, and failing to buckle up."