The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported a slight estimated increase in the number of traffic fatalities on America’s roads during the first half of 2022.
According to NHTSA, roughly 20,175 individuals died in traffic accidents between January 2022 and June 2022. This represents a 0.5 percent increase from the same period in 2021, when 20,070 individuals died in traffic crashes.
A Concerning Trend Appears to Continue
The increase in fatalities during the first half of 2022 from the first half of 2021 continues a trend of increases that first began in 2020. The number of traffic fatalities in the first half of 2020 increased by 0.1 percent over the number of traffic deaths during the same period in 2019.
Between January and June 2019, there were 17,025 traffic fatalities. This increased to 17,034 traffic deaths between January and June 2020.
There was an even greater jump in traffic fatalities between January and June 2020 and the first half of 2021. During the first half of 2021, there were 20,070 reported traffic fatalities nationwide. This was nearly an 18 percent increase from the number of deaths in the first and second quarters of 2020.
Second Quarter of 2022 Not Expected to Be as Deadly as First Half
The news from NHTSA is not completely disheartening, though. In announcing the overall increase in fatalities, NHTSA noted that in the second quarter of 2022, from April until June, the number of fatalities declined from the number of fatalities reported in the second quarter of 2021.
NHTSA recorded 11,135 traffic deaths during the second quarter of 2021 compared with an estimated 10,590 traffic fatalities during the second quarter of 2022. This represents a decline of nearly five percent. This is significant considering that, since the third quarter of 2020, NHTSA’s statistics have shown an increase each year from quarter to corresponding quarter.
Traffic-Related Deaths Remain Stubbornly High
Federal officials are not resting on their laurels, though. NHTSA’s raw data show that for the past seven years, from 2015 through 2021, the total number of traffic fatalities on America’s roadways has remained above 35,000 annually. Last year, there were a total of 42,915 traffic accident deaths. If the preliminary numbers for 2022 continue, then this year will see a similarly high number of traffic fatalities by year’s end.
Americans Are Still Taking to the Country’s Roads
The decline in fatalities during the second quarter of 2022 is also notable because the number of miles traveled by Americans actually increased. Had this number decreased, then you might expect that the number of fatalities would also decrease. In that case, NHTSA’s announcement would not be as surprising or noteworthy.
But the number of vehicle miles traveled during the second quarter of 2022 increased from the number traveled during the second quarter of 2021 as well as the first quarter of 2022.
During the second quarter of 2022, Americans traveled 833.5 billion miles compared to 753.6 billion miles traveled during 2022’s first quarter. During the second quarter of 2021, the total number of vehicle miles traveled was 830.4 billion.
New Efforts to Promote Road Safety Underway
The decrease in fatalities seen in 2022’s second quarter may be related to the federal government’s National Roadway Safety Strategy, introduced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in January 2022.
According to NHTSA, this document outlines the Department’s plans for reducing the number of crashes that result in serious injuries and death.
The plan includes recommendations to add additional driver assistance technologies to new cars. The proposed additional systems include support for blind spot detection and intervention, lane assist technology, and pedestrian braking safety systems.
Safe Driving Is an Individual Choice
As laudable as the DOT’s plans for eliminating all roadway deaths is, the responsibility for safe driving will always fall back to individual drivers. The choices that drivers make moment by moment are the immediate causes of traffic accidents. Drivers who choose to be attentive and cautious can help reduce the number of injury and fatality wrecks.
Conversely, aggressive and careless driving behaviors lead to a greater risk of injury and fatality wrecks. Speeding, failing to yield the right of way, texting while driving, and driving while impaired are all well-known and well-documented causes of injury and fatality crashes.
What to Watch Out for Going Forward
It will be interesting to see if the drop in traffic fatalities between April and June 2022 is an anomaly or if it is part of an encouraging and positive trend. If the second half of 2022 sees a reduction similar to the one experienced in the second quarter of this year, expect NHTSA, DOT, and others to study the causes of the new pattern and how to keep the trend going.
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