The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) released its early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2022 on August 17, estimating that 9,560 people died in motor vehicle accidents. That is an increase of about 7% in 2021, where 8,935 fatalities were projected for the same quarter.
According to NHTSA’s early estimates, the fatality rate for the first quarter of 2022 increased to 1.27 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from the projected rate of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles in the first quarter of 2021.
The agency added that preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled or VMT in the first three months of 2022 increased by about 40.2 billion miles, or about a 5.6 percent increase.
“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction. Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator.
Ending traffic fatalities across the country is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Biden Administration. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), makes significant investments in highway safety. In January, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the National Roadway Safety Strategy, which includes a special focus on reducing traffic fatalities. The long-term plan aims to save lives by focusing on safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care.
NHTSA recently began breaking out fatality trends by state for these quarterly estimates. While fatalities increased nationwide, 19 states and Puerto Rico saw traffic deaths decline during the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
NHTSA added that it would continue to monitor state-by-state numbers to make it easier for state practitioners, researchers and advocates to see if there is a trend and if there are activities these states are undertaking that are contributing to this decline.
To help reduce crashes and the fatalities associated with them, NHTSA launched a Speeding Wrecks Lives public outreach campaign in July that aims to change general attitudes toward speeding and remind drivers of the deadly consequences.
In addition to education campaigns, the agency’s regional offices are working closely with state departments of transportation to assist them in directing NHTSA formula grant funds to address risky driving behaviors such as speeding and driving while impaired, protect vulnerable road users, and reach over-represented and underserved populations using a broad array of programs and countermeasures.
NHTSA also noted that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were marked increases in fatalities and the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in 2020 – a trend that has continued off and on now for two years.
NHTSA said that this upward fatality rate per 100 million VMT trend that began in 2020 continued into the first quarter of 2021, but then decreased in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2021. However, it has increased again in the first quarter of 2022.