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New NHTSA report shows pedestrian and bicycle fatalities hit a 40-year high

After a 15 month wait, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finally released its crash data for 2021. It shows that pedestrian and bicycle fatalities rose once again. This continues a decade-long trend and has now reached a 40-year high.

You can view the NHTSA report directly here.

The League of American Bicyclists has updated their data platform with the numbers from this latest report. Below are a couple of the charts showing the trends since the 70s:

A chart showing the number of annual bicyclist fatalities with a 40 year high.

A chart showing the number of annual pedestrian fatalities with a 40 year high.

Smart Growth America, the organization behind the Dangerous By Design report, has a reaction to the data here. They explain how the extreme delays in the report are hurting efforts to improve safety, and they don’t mince words when it comes to the severity of these numbers:

Whatever constitutes our approach to safety in this country, it is a total failure. We are failing the victims, we are failing their friends and loved ones who have to press on after these traumatic incidents, and we are failing our communities who have to bear the financial and non-financial costs of these crashes and deaths—to say nothing of all the near misses.


States still use outdated design guidance (with the blessing of or sometimes even through USDOT requirements). They are the ones using decades-old models and measures that prioritize speed over safety, even when “safety is always the top priority.”

A lot of this confirms what we already know, that our streets are dangerous by design. The nationwide trend of building bigger roads and driving bigger vehicles comes at the cost of human life. Unless we are able to correct those underlying issues, then this high fatality rate is unlikely to reverse course.