AUSTIN (KXAN) — Last year was the second-deadliest on Texas roads when it comes to the number of traffic fatalities, new data from the Texas Department of Transportation shows.
According to TxDOT, “more than 4,480” people were killed in crashes in 2021. That’s the second-highest yearly total behind 4,701 deaths in 1981.
TxDOT has been tracking traffic fatalities since 1940, but yearly data prior to 2003 was not readily available to KXAN Monday.
The total for 2021 is up by 15% over 2020. That’s reflective of a nationwide trend. According to TxDOT, an estimated 20,160 traffic deaths occurred across the U.S. in the first half of 2021, up 18.4% over the same time period in 2020.
When adjusted for population, 2021’s total is the highest since 2005. Last year, there were 15.17 traffic deaths statewide for every 100,000 residents. The rate per 100,000 hasn’t been above 15 since 2005. It’s still a far cry from the 1981 record of 4,701 total deaths, which is more than 31 deaths per 100,000 people.
In 2021, 1,522 people were killed because of speed, and 1,219 were killed because they were not wearing a seat belt, according to TxDOT.
“These were decisions made by people that could have potentially saved 2,741 lives,” said Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan.
TxDOT said in addition to funding traffic safety campaigns and grants for law enforcement, the agency is working with researchers to study and deploy new road design features that are proven to save lives. The department is also using crash data to pinpoint areas with a higher frequency of crashes and will focus on safety improvements in those areas.
At least one person has been killed in a traffic crash in Texas every single day for the past 21 years. The last deathless day in the state was Nov. 7, 2000.
In Austin, 111 fatal crashes were reported in 2021, resulting in 120 deaths. So far this year, 15 fatal crashes and 16 deaths have been reported in the city.