The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Thursday released its preliminary estimates report on crash fatalities in 2020.
Per the 'Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2020' report, though Americans drove less during the COVID-19 pandemic, some 38,680 individuals died in motor vehicle crashes last year.
Comparatively, the NHTSA reported 36,096 fatalities in 2019, amounting to a 7.2% increase for 2020.
The 2020 fatality estimate amounts to the highest NHTSA projection since 2017.
The 13-year high comes alongside a 13.2% yearly decrease in 'vehicle miles traveled,' per Federal Highway Administration data.
According to the NHTSA, there were significant increases in three major categories for 2020 traffic fatalities: passenger vehicle occupants (23,395, up 5% from 2019); motorcyclists (5,015, up 9%); and bicyclists (846, up 5%).
Impaired driving, failure to wear a seatbelt and speeding were listed as the primary contributing factor to the uptick in traffic deaths.
Dr. Steven Cliff, the NHTSA's Acting Administrator, said in a quoted statement that the government agency intends "to use all available tools to reverse these trends and reduce traffic fatalities and injuries."
He went on to state that US President Joe Biden's 'American Jobs Plan' will offer "an additional $19 billion in vital funding to improve road safety for all users, including people walking and biking."