Traffic fatalities are on their way to record numbers not seen since 2002, according to a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The organization’s Traffic Safety Facts report states that 9,560 people have died on our roads since the beginning of the year, which is a 7 percent increase from the first quarter of 2021. If the trend continues for the rest of this year, we could see staggering numbers of fatalities when the dust settles.
When the pandemic led to widespread lockdowns, driving decreased, but crashes continued growing. Now, traffic is increasing – the Federal Highway Administration found that vehicle miles traveled increased by 40.2 billion miles in the first quarter of 2022. Fatalities climbed along with congestion, as the study found that the fatality rate increased to 1.27 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
The issue isn’t limited to one part of the country, either. The NHTSA found that 7 out of the 10 geographic regions saw increases in fatalities, and 6 out of 10 had increases in their fatality rates. Some regions remained flat between 2021 and 2022, and only one (California, Hawaii, and Arizona) saw a decrease.
The growth in traffic fatalities is alarming, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture. Part of the problem could be that we have 50 states with 50 sets of traffic laws, and part of the problem relates to laws and the legislative process. That said, the biggest contributing factor to highway deaths are the people behind the wheel. Excess speed, distracted driving, and other unsafe practices are just the start. It’s clear that any solution to highway deaths has to take all parties into account.