Slow down, buckle up: Virginia hit 14-year high for traffic fatalities in 2021

Virginia reached a sobering milestone in 2021: Crash fatalities in the commonwealth hit a 14-year high, according to data released Tuesday.

In 2021, 968 people died in crashes on Virginia roads. That’s up 14.3% from 2020, when there were 847 crash fatalities. And it’s the highest number of annual deaths since 2007, which saw 1,026 fatalities.



Statistics from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office show that fatalities were up across a number of categories: speed-related deaths; commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities; and fatalities of motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, teen drivers and mature drivers.

Courtesy Virginia DMV (Click to enlarge)

“There are immediate, simple actions Virginians can take to save lives on our roadways,” said acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the governor’s highway safety representative, in a statement.

“This is critically important as fatalities continue to increase this year. Vehicles and roadways are safer than they ever have been, yet we continue to lose lives to senseless crashes. Do your part to help. Slow down, buckle up, focus on the task of driving and never drive impaired. It truly is that simple.”

2022 isn’t looking great, either. So far, the DMV says 245 people have been killed in crashes on Virginia roadways, a 12% increase compared with this point in 2021.

2021 was a bad year for the District as well. The Washington Post reported back in February that with 40 fatalities, it was the deadliest year in the District since 2007.

Maryland recently released its crash statistics. In 2021, there were 557 roadway fatalities in Maryland. While that number is down 2.8% from 2020, state officials say it is still not good news.

“Tragically, we lost 377 drivers, 80 passengers, 129 pedestrians and bicyclists,” said James F. Ports Jr., the secretary of Maryland’s Transportation Department.

“These are not just numbers. These are not just statistics. They are people. They’re our family members, our friends, our community members.”

This year, there have already been 134 roadway fatalities in Maryland.

Virginia isn’t the only locality seeing an increase in crash deaths: It’s a national trend.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “an estimated 31,720 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes from January through September 2021, an increase of approximately 12% from the 28,325 fatalities projected for the first nine months of 2020.”

“The projection is the highest number of fatalities during the first nine months of any year since 2006 and the highest percentage increase during the first nine months in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history.”

Ford warned that the upward trend will continue unless Virginia drivers “take action.”

“Most people want to contribute to something greater; by driving safely, you can truly make a difference, not just in your life, but in the lives of everyone with whom you share the road,” Ford said.

WTOP’s Michelle Murillo contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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