Deaths on US roadways decreased slightly in 2022 as compared to 2021, according to new estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The NHTSA recently released updated estimates for US car accident deaths in the previous year. According to the agency, US drivers traveled more total vehicle miles in 2022 than in 2021, but the number of deaths on US roads dropped slightly in 2022 versus the previous year.
NHTSA’s Numbers Show Decrease in Overall Traffic Deaths
According to the most recent estimates from NHTSA, 42,795 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2022. This number is slightly lower than 2021’s total of 42,939 roadway deaths – a decrease of approximately 0.3 percent.
The decrease becomes more significant in context, however. Total crash deaths dropped 0.3 percent between 2021 and 2022, but the total number of vehicle miles driven on US roads in the same time period increased by 1 percent. Overall, the estimated death rate in 2022 was 1.35 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 1.37 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2021.
Also, the NHTSA estimates that car crash deaths dropped in the fourth quarter of 2022, marking the third straight quarter of decreasing roadway death numbers. This trend of decreasing deaths is a welcome change from seven straight quarters of increases beginning in the third quarter of 2020.
Some States Have Higher Crash Rates Than Others
The NHTSA’s numbers look at the United States as a whole. When researchers zero in on specific states and metropolitan areas, however, they discover that some places are seeing higher rates of decrease – and in others, the rate of death and serious injury in car crashes is actually rising.
For instance, the NHTSA estimates that 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had fewer traffic deaths in 2022 than in 2021. Regions with the largest decrease in car crash deaths include the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as well as southern states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
In 23 states, however, traffic death estimates have stayed the same or increased. The NHTSA estimates that car accident deaths have increased most in the Northeast states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. An eight percent increase in crash deaths affected this region in 2022, per NHTSA analysis. The Pacific states of Hawaii, California, and Arizona saw an approximately 5 percent increase in car crash deaths. The Pacific Northwest is expected to see no changes in its overall car accident death rates between 2021 and 2022.
Between 2021 and 2022, Illinois saw a four percent drop in car crash deaths, according to NHTSA data. In 2021, the fatality rate in Illinois car accidents was 1.33 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. In 2022, this rate decreased to 1.26 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Both of these rates are slightly lower than the national averages for 2021 and 2022 – but work remains to make Illinois roads safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
What These Numbers Mean for US Drivers
A decrease in traffic accident deaths is a good thing. Yet the 2022 decrease comes during a record-high period in traffic crash deaths, according to the NHTSA. Car accident deaths in the US increased as much as 10.5 percent between 2020 and 2021 – the highest jump in nearly 50 years. Many of these crashes resulted from speeding, distracted driving, and substance use impairments like drunk or drugged driving. Overall, car accident deaths and serious injuries remain high. Work must be done to further reduce these numbers.
Downward trends in car crash death rates are good news for drivers, passengers, and others who share US roads. Yet it is important not to let these numbers obscure the need to take care when driving or using the roadways.
For example, while car crash death rates have declined overall, the NHTSA notes that pedestrian death rates are rising in many parts of the United States, especially in densely-populated urban areas like Chicago. The roads may be getting a bit safer for drivers, but they may be more dangerous for pedestrians.
Everyone on the roads shares a responsibility to use care to prevent crashes when they can. If a driver fails to take due care and a car crash results, those injured can seek help from an experienced car accident attorney.