Small Decrease in 2022 Traffic Deaths Sustains Pandemic-Fueled Surge in Roadway Fatalities as NHTSA Still Lacks a Confirmed Administrator

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News Releases

April 20, 2023

Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930; 202-365-8971 (after hours)

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that an estimated 42,795 people died in traffic crashes in the United States in 2022 – down 0.3% from the year before. That’s an average of 117 people dying on our roads every single day last year. Traffic deaths have surged 30% over the past decade, with nearly 10,000 more fatalities when compared to 32,893 in 2013.

Any reduction in roadway deaths is positive, but the minor decrease announced by NHTSA follows an unprecedented pandemic-fueled surge in roadway fatalities and dangerous driving. Traffic deaths rose from 36,355 in 2019 to 42,795 in 2022, a nearly 18% increase. The most dangerous driving behaviors – speeding, impaired driving and not wearing a seat belt – all increased in both 2020 and 2021. This is not only impacting motorists, but other road users, particularly pedestrians. Deaths involving people on foot have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching a 40-year high of nearly 7,500 in 2021, according to a GHSA data analysis. Early indications of 2022 data point to it being another incredibly deadly year for people walking.

These roadway deaths are heartbreaking, unacceptable and preventable. We will not accept such incremental safety progress after two years of escalating deaths and more dangerous driving on U.S. roads. The Safe System approach, outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) National Roadway Safety Strategy, offers a roadmap for reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths. It calls for using all proven countermeasures – equitable traffic enforcement; infrastructure that slows down drivers and protects pedestrians, bicyclists and other 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.

Amid the continued high level of roadway fatalities, GHSA urges swift Senate confirmation of Ann Carlson, who was nominated by the White House to be NHTSA Administrator in February. Carlson, who has served as both Chief Counsel and Acting Administrator at NHTSA, is uniquely qualified for the position. She has extensive regulatory experience, is focused on achieving systemic change and has been a vocal and effective proponent of the Safe System approach. With the exception of a brief three-month period in 2022, NHTSA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for the past six years. It’s maddening to think that we’re now three years into this roadway safety crisis and NHTSA does not have a confirmed leader.

Traffic safety professionals from across the country – representing State Highway Safety Offices, the federal government, public health, law enforcement and the private sector – will attend the GHSA 2023 Annual Meeting in New York City, August 12-16, to work together to chart a path to addressing the ongoing roadway safety crisis. Several senior U.S. DOT and NHTSA leaders are scheduled to speak at the meeting, including on a General Session panel that will discuss progress made to date – and what needs to be done – to implement the Safe System approach in the United States.

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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 for more information or find us on Facebook and Twitter.