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New Estimates of Lives Taken in 2021 Traffic Crashes Amount to National Emergency

MADD Calls for Immediate Confirmation of NHTSA Administrator, Emphasis on Fair and Equitable Traffic Safety Enforcement and Public-Private Partnership to Identify Immediate Solutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) preliminary estimate of 42,915 lives taken on our nation’s roadways in 2021 – the highest number of traffic deaths since 2005 – amounts to a national emergency. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) agrees with NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff that action is needed now.

Leaders from the highest levels of government to the smallest communities must prioritize fair and equitable traffic safety enforcement with emphasis on hazardous driving behaviors like impaired driving and speeding. MADD stands ready to support long-term strategies included in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy to stop the 100% preventable heartbreak happening on our roads. But there is no time to wait. NHTSA has been without a confirmed administrator for five years, and with the busy travel brought by summer months, we face an immediate threat that requires action now.

“Our nation has taken a dangerous and deadly step backwards in traffic safety and impaired driving. We are seeing the tragic impact of deprioritizing traffic safety enforcement, stretched law enforcement resources and a reckless shift in attitudes toward drunk driving in our justice system and in our everyday lives,” said MADD National President Alex Otte. “Across America, our communities are under threat from drunk drivers getting absurdly short sentences for killing or causing life-changing injuries, repeat offenders returned to our roads with a wrist slap, and comedians making jokes on TV about their own DUIs. Meanwhile, more families and more communities are feeling the crushing magnitude of this crisis on our roads.”

According to NHTSA, traffic deaths increased by 10.5% from 2020 to 2021, the largest increase in the history of its Fatality Analysis Reporting System that dates back to 1975. Police-reported alcohol-related traffic deaths increased by 5% from 2020 to 2021. This follows a 14% spike in drunk driving deaths in 2020.

Today, MADD calls for urgent action to confirm a NHTSA administrator and establish a public-private traffic safety effort focusing on effective countermeasures and policies, similar to the highly successful Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, which was formed in the mid-1990s, when air bags were killing children and small stature adults at an alarming rate. At the time, USDOT, the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Safety Council, state highway safety offices, law enforcement, the auto and insurance industries and many others joined forces to promote the safety of children ages 12 and under sitting in backseats and increasing child safety seat and seat belt use. The campaign, which ran from 1996 to 2007, led to the national adoption of NHTSA’s Click it or Ticket program, launched every year around Memorial Day weekend.

“We at MADD know that impaired driving, speeding and not using seatbelts are the leading causes of traffic deaths and injuries, and we are here to do whatever we can to contribute to and support a much-needed response that will reverse this devastating trend,” Otte said.

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 400,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50% and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

Contact: Becky Iannotta, [email protected]

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