Car Accident Road Deaths Saw Record Increase in First Quarter of 2022: NHTSA Reports

This year is on course for recording another record year for car accident road deaths, which have been rising steadily in recent years, despite advances in vehicle safety.

New data released by federal highway safety officials indicates that road deaths increased by 7% during the first quarter of 2022, when compared to last year, marking the largest quarterly increase in deaths from car accidents since 2002.

The U.S. National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its early estimates of traffic fatalities this month, including data for the first quarter of 2022, finding that at least 29 states reported increases over the first quarter of 2021.

Although vehicles continue to get safer and add new features designed to reduce the risk of crash injuries, NHTSA officials have recorded consecutive increases in overall car accident deaths over the last several years, with 33,244 fatalities in 2019, 38,824 in 2020, and 42,915 in 2021.

Following this steady increase in prior years, an alarming spike was seen during the first quarter of this year, with at least 9,560 deaths in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2022, which is a 7% increase over the 8,935 fatalities projected for the same quarter in 2021. According to the newest estimates, 2022 may be on track for yet another consecutive increase in motor vehicle deaths.

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While the causes of these increased auto accident deaths were not identified in the report, officials noted that several states saw particularly significant increases; with Delaware seeing a 163.2% increase, a 62.5% increase in the District of Columbia, a 37.6% increase in New York and a 51.2% increase in North Carolina.

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction,” said NHTSA Administrator, Dr. Steven Cliff. “Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety.”

The rising rate of car accidents road deaths has become a major focus of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in recent years. It released a series of safety recommendations in September 2018, calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to collaborate on efforts to produce better standards to protect pedestrians.

Pedestrian Fatalities

Pedestrian accident deaths have been a special topic of focus in recent years, as rates of pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicle collisions have increased sharply. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a pedestrian fatality report last year finding that for year-over-year comparisons, pedestrian deaths from traffic accidents increased by 4.8% in 2020.

The number of pedestrian fatalities skyrocketed by the beginning of 2022, with a total of 7,485 people struck by vehicles while walking in 2021, which is the most in a single year in four decades.

Speeding has also become a major concern for highway safety regulators, causing thousands of deaths and serious injuries to pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle occupants annually. Moreover, car accidents have become the leading cause of death for teens between the age of 15 and 18 years in the United States, ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence.

Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) issued a report highlighting the significant role speeding plays in teen driver accidents and deaths; providing a series of recommendations for parents about how to mitigate risky driving behaviors among teens.

According to the GHSA report, 15,510 teenage drivers between the ages 16 to 19 were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes from 2015 to 2019, with about one-third (5,202) of those fatal incidents caused by speeding. The data indicates teenagers accounted for 43% of all driver and passenger deaths related to speeding, were also found to have the highest percentage of fatal motor vehicle crashes in which a roadway departure (71%) or rollover (41%) occurred.


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