By Katie Chimelewski, director of safety & certification, ARTBA

More than 42,000 people died in traffic crashes last year, an 8 percent increase over 2019, even as total vehicle miles driven declined 13 percent due to COVID-19 closures, the National Safety Council (NSC) says.

The 24 percent increase in the death rate is the highest year-over-year jump that NSC has estimated since 1924. NSC data concludes that the open roads played a role in excessive speeding.

“It is tragic that in the U.S. we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a March 4 release of the preliminary data.

The report is sure to get attention at the March 16-18 Virtual National Work Zone Management Conference. The event is hosted by the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, managed by ARTBA’s Foundation through a cooperative agreement with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The focus of the biennial conference is to reduce road user and worker fatalities and injuries, minimize congestion, and improve performance at roadway construction sites. ARTBA and its industry safety partners are using the NSC data to urge the Biden administration to prioritize safety on our nation’s highway system.