An estimated 31,785 people lost their lives in traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2022 — representing just a 0.2% decrease as compared to the 31,850 estimated fatalities during the same time in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Moreover, NHTSA projects fatalities declined slightly in the third quarter of 2022, making this the second straight quarterly decline in crash deaths after seven consecutive quarters of year-to-year increases in fatalities that began in 2020 during the pandemic.
However, safety advocates remain wary about the state of the nation’s highways and byways. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) called the NHTSA fatality news “a small step forward for safer roads.”
In a press release, GHSA points out that crash fatalities rose 7.2% in 2020 despite a historic drop in driving and jumped another 10.5% in 2021. This giant backward slide is due in part to a spike in unsafe motorist behaviors that included speeding, impaired and distracted driving, and lack of seat belt use, notes the organization.
That said, NHTSA’s report offers some good news such as a decrease in fatalities among select populations and in specific situations. For example, roadway deaths in in children younger than 16 dropped by 10% when compared to the first half of 2021, and by 8% in people ages 16 to 24.
There were also 9% fewer fatalities in vehicle rollover crashes and speeding-related crashes fatalities dropped by 2%. Finally, the data indicates that crash fatalities involving passengers ejected from a vehicle dropped by 7%. Moreover, deaths among unbelted people in passenger vehicles also dropped by 7% as compared to the first half of 2021.
However, to add perspective, while fatalities overall declined in the first nine months of 2022, roadway deaths amongst cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users continued to rise. For example, fatalities among cyclists rose 8% as compared to the first half of 2021. Pedestrians experienced a 2% increase in deaths and motorcyclists a 5% increase when compared to the first six months of 2021.
Among other noteworthy findings, fatalities on rural interstates rose by 12% in the first nine months of 2022. And, deaths in collisions involving at least one large truck were up 10% as compared to the first half of 2021.
Finally, the report also addresses where fatalities increased and decreased during the first three quarters of 2022. Roadway deaths increased in 25 states, stayed unchanged in one state, and decreased in 24 states: the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.