In its latest projections, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said traffic fatalities declined slightly to 42,795 people in 2022 – a 0.3 percent drop compared to the 42,939 traffic fatalities reported for 2021.
[Above photo by WSDOT]
As a result, the estimated fatality rate decreased to 1.35 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled or VMT in 2022, NHTSA said in a statement – down from 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2021. That’s because Americans are now driving more than they did during the height of the COVID pandemic, the agency noted, with VMT up one percent in 2022 versus 2021.
NHTSA also projects that traffic fatalities declined in the fourth quarter of 2022 – the third straight quarterly decline in fatalities it recorded after seven consecutive quarters of increases that started in the third quarter of 2020.
The agency also estimates that 27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico witnessed decreases in fatalities in 2022 as compared to 2021, while 23 states experienced increases.
Concurrently, NHTSA released a new analysis of the 2021 fatal crash data, which underscores the risk of distracted and other forms of risky driving. Fatalities in distraction-affected crashes increased by 12 percent from 3,154 in 2020 to 3,522 in 2021, a total of 8.2 percent of all fatalities reported.
“[This] data tells us just how much harm distracted driving can cause and why a nationwide campaign is more important today than ever,” explained NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman.
“We need to use all the tools we have to reduce distracted driving: state laws, education and outreach, and disabling of phones while driving can all work to save lives,” she said.
Even with these high numbers, NHTSA said distraction is likely underreported because the behavior is “difficult to detect” during crash investigations, and police reports likely understate its incidence.
NHTSA’s “The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2019” report, released in February, found that distracted driving was involved in 29 percent of all vehicle crashes, resulting in 10,546 fatalities, 1.3 million nonfatal injuries, and $98.2 billion in economic costs in 2019.