U.S. Traffic Deaths Remain Unacceptably High Despite Minor Decrease

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News Releases

January 9, 2023

Statement by Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a preliminary estimate today finding that 31,785 people died in traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2022, 65 fewer deaths than the same period the year before. 

A reduction in roadway fatalities is welcome, but the 0.2% decline announced by NHTSA follows an unprecedented two-year surge in roadway deaths and dangerous driving. Coupled with that is a continued rise in bicyclist and pedestrian deaths, underscoring the urgent need to ensure that road users not in vehicles enjoy the same protections as drivers and their passengers. 

Today’s news is a small step forward for safer roads. 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. 

We cannot afford to inch our way to zero traffic deaths. We must act now – and quickly – to prevent crashes and save lives. Adoption and implementation of the Safe System approach outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy offers a proven roadmap for making meaningful gains in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. The approach calls for combining all effective countermeasures – equitable traffic enforcement, infrastructure that slows down drivers and protects non-motorized road users, community engagement campaigns developed with local input, vehicle technology that protects people both inside and outside the vehicle, and investments in post-crash care – to create a multi-layered traffic safety net that keeps everyone safe.

NHTSA also released an analysis of roadway fatalities for the first six months of 2022. Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories Through June 2022 shows a mixture of increases and decreases across various contributing factors. Rural road deaths increased 5% in the first half of 2022, according to the estimate. Last year, GHSA released a report funded by State Farm® showing that rural roads are disproportionately deadly per mile driven and offering suggestions to make these roads safer. The NHTSA analysis also found that unbuckled passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in the first six months of 2022 fell 7% compared to the same period the year before.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or find us on Facebook and Twitter.