US Traffic Fatalities Rose in the First Quarter of 2022
A government report released earlier this month called the Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Quarter of 2022 found that 9,560 people were killed in traffic fatalities in the first quarter of 2022. That number is a seven percent increase over the same period in 2021, and the highest number in 20 years.
Safety experts such as the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, Steven Cliff, have been sounding the alarm for months about the increase in risky driving behaviors that have skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic. Despite the feeling that the pandemic is waning, risky driving behaviors such as speeding have continued at very high rates.
Regions with the highest increase in US traffic fatalities
The NHTSA estimated that 29 states and the District of Columbia all experienced higher road deaths over 2021.
- The highest increases in traffic deaths were seen in the mid-Atlantic region, with a shocking 52 percent jump in deaths. The region includes Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
- Delaware had by far the largest percentage increase in traffic fatalities of any state with a jump of 163 percent.
North Carolina had the largest increase in the number of people killed with 171 more people dead this year than in the first quarter of 2021.
- New England experienced the second-highest jump, with an increase of 23 percent.
- The third highest region was the greater New York area, which had 18 percent more fatalities.
- Most of the southern states and the interior West experienced only small changes in their numbers over 2021 but southern states had the highest fatality rates in the country in early 2021 so flat numbers aren’t great news for the region.
- The states who fared the best were California, Arizona, and Hawaii that collectively experienced an 11 percent decrease in road deaths.
While traffic deaths have been on an upward climb for almost a decade, numbers got dramatically worse when the pandemic started. In total, we lost about 42,000 people in road deaths in 2021, which is 10,000 more people in a year than numbers from a decade ago.
Needless to say, safety advocates complain that the NHTSA hasn’t taken more proactive steps to implement safety standards that could reduce accidents, including:
- Restrict vehicle size (larger vehicles tend to have bigger blind spots)
- Restrict distracting interactive elements such as video screens
- Test vehicles for their impact on pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles in crashes
- Reduce Tesla’s ability to promote “self-driving” features that have led to crashes
In January, when numbers were already looking alarming, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shared the Biden administration’s approach for improving road safety with an emphasis on “safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and better post-crash care.”
Reducing the number of traffic fatalities will require a range of efforts, including better safety standards and regulations and drivers reducing risky driving behaviors.
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