Small Decrease in 2022 Traffic Deaths Sustains Pandemic-Fueled Surge in Roadway Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that an estimated 42,795 people died in traffic crashes in the United States in 2022, a 0.3% decrease from 2021. The administration notes that the minor decrease follows an “unprecedented pandemic-fueled surge in roadway fatalities and dangerous driving.”

According to NHTSA, an average of 117 people died on the road every day last year. Additionally, traffic deaths have surged 30% over the past decade, with nearly 10,000 more fatalities when compared to the 32,893 fatalities recorded in 2013. Traffic deaths rose from 36,355 in 2019 to 42,795 in 2022, a nearly 18% increase. NHTSA says that increase can be attributed, in part, to an increase in dangerous driving behaviors, such as speeding, impaired driving and not wearing seat belts.

“These roadway deaths are heartbreaking, unacceptable and preventable,” NHTSA writes. “We will not accept such incremental safety progress after two years of escalating deaths and more dangerous driving on U.S. roads. The Safe System approach, outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy, offers a roadmap for reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.”

The approach calls for the use of “all proven countermeasures,” including equitable traffic enforcement; infrastructure that slows down drivers and protects pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized road users; community engagement campaigns developed with local input; vehicle technology that protects people both inside and outside the vehicle; and investments in post-crash care.

The Governors Highway Safety Association is also urging “swift” Senate confirmation of Ann Carlson, nominated by the White House to be NHTSA’s administrator. Carlson has served as both chief counsel and acting administrator at NHTSA.

“She has extensive regulatory experience, is focused on achieving systemic change and has been a vocal and effective proponent of the Safe System approach,” NHTSA writes. “With the exception of a brief three-month period in 2022, NHTSA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for the past six years. It’s maddening to think that we’re now three years into this roadway safety crisis and NHTSA does not have a confirmed leader.”

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