Preliminary Monthly Estimates

Monthly Preliminary Motor-Vehicle Fatality Estimates – May 2021

May motor-vehicle deaths up 21% from last year!

Because of COVID-19-related impacts, the number of miles driven in 2020 decreased 13.2% compared to 2019. Now with the country starting to open back up, the number of miles driven in May 2021 increased 28.7% compared to May 2020, but was still down 4.1% from 2019 (pre-pandemic normal). The number of deaths for the first five months of 2021 are estimated to be 17,360. This preliminary estimate is up 20% compared to 2020 and up 16% compared to 2019. Motor-vehicle deaths in May 2021 totaled 4,050; this preliminary estimate is up 21% from May 2020 and up 19% compared to May 2019. May 2021 is the 11th month out of the last 12 showing year-over-year increases compared to the prior year. The increase in deaths this May was offset with an even larger increase in miles driven compared to May 2020, resulting in a monthly mileage death rate decrease of 5.7%. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven for May 2021 is 1.48, compared to 1.57 in May 2020 and 1.20 in May 2019.

Mileage source: Federal Highway Administration

The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage through May 2021 was $196 billion.

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Through May 2021, motor-vehicle deaths decreased in only five states compared to the first five months of 2020:

  • Maine (-11 deaths, -22%)
  • Kansas (-23 deaths, -16%)
  • New Hampshire (-1 death, -3%)
  • Connecticut (-1 death, -1%)
  • West Virginia (-1 death, -1%)

Eight states and the District of Columbia experienced an increase of 40% or greater:

  • Vermont (+12 deaths, +109%)
  • South Dakota (+23 deaths, +77%)
  • Montana (+35 deaths, +73%)
  • Mississippi (+115 deaths, +56%)
  • District of Columbia (+6 deaths, +55%)
  • Oregon (+74 deaths, +54%)
  • Michigan (+132 deaths, +45%)
  • Nevada (+45 deaths, +44%)
  • Idaho (+21 deaths, +40%)

The line chart compares the 2021 monthly fatality trends against the 2020 and 2019 trends. Adjust the filter to select which years to compare. In May 2021, 10 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer deaths compared to May 2020 preliminary reports, Kansas reported no change, and 38 states reported more deaths in May 2021 than May 2020. Massachusetts did not provide May estimates. Please use the data table to view detailed state preliminary estimates.

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How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables
NSC preliminary motor-vehicle fatality estimates do not include U.S. territories.

How the National Safety Council Calculates Crash Fatality Estimates

The National Safety Council (NSC) collects preliminary motor-vehicle fatality estimates from data reporters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. State data reporters generally work in state Department of Transportation offices and are often the same individuals responsible for providing data to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Each month, state data reporters provide a first estimate for the previous month’s fatalities and updated estimates for all previously reported months.

NSC maintains a three-year database of all state motor-vehicle fatality estimate reports. Using January as an example, the NSC database includes the January estimate first reported in February, as well as any updated January estimates reported in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December.

Fatality estimates tend to mature over the course of the year. Numbers often increase as fatalities are confirmed. Because of the maturation of the data, NSC calculates year-to-year percent change estimates by comparing monthly motor-vehicle estimates of comparable maturity.

To calculate national fatality estimates, percent change estimates are multiplied by the most recently available final motor-vehicle fatality estimates reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Therefore, NSC estimates reflect the NCHS definition of motor-vehicle fatalities as both traffic and non-traffic deaths that occur within a year of the incident. Since NHTSA counts only traffic deaths that occur within 30 days of the incident, NSC motor-vehicle fatality estimates are not comparable to NHTSA figures.

All state level data are displayed as reported by each state. All fatality estimates are preliminary. To ensure proper comparisons, 2020 state fatality estimates are preliminary figures covering the same reporting period as those for 2021. In other words, preliminary 2021 estimates are compared to preliminary 2020 and 2019 estimates, even if updated estimates are available.

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