More than 46,200 people died on U.S. roadways in 2022, a 2% decline compared with 2021. The drop comes despite Americans driving more last year than the previous one.
The numbers come from the National Safety Council’s semi-annual estimate. The final number from federal agencies will come in the weeks ahead, but the NSC believes 46,270 people died last year while in a moving vehicle. This down from the 46,980 from 2021.
Mileage in 2022 increased 0.9% from 2021 and was up 9.2% from 2020. The estimated mileage death rate in 2022 is 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down 2.7% from 1.50 in 2021 and stable compared to 2020, the organization noted.
“From drivers and passengers to pedestrians and cyclists, road users of all ages are perishing in preventable crashes in the United States,” said Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO. “Words matter, and as a country, we need to learn and understand that there are no vehicle accidents.
“Each crash that occurs on America’s roads is entirely preventable and unacceptable. We must change the way we think about designing and moving around in our communities, understanding that people will make mistakes and the cost of those mistakes should not be serious injury or death.”
Are lower numbers misleading?
Despite the year-over-year improvement, the NSC is quick to point out the numbers are up significantly since 2020, when just 42,339 deaths occurred. The 2022 number is a 9.2% increase. The mileage death rate is still up 21.7% from the pre-COVID normal in 2019 (1.2), causing the NSC to call for further efforts to improve safety.
A report from AAA found that several unsafe driving behaviors have been in the rise for the past several years, including speeding, running red lights, drowsy driving and driving while impaired.
“The reversal in the frequency of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is disturbing,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
“While drivers acknowledge that certain activities behind the wheel — like speeding and driving impaired, are not safe, many still engage in these activities anyway. We must be aware of the serious consequences of dangerous driving behaviors and change course.”
How states performed
The decline nationally is a result of several states making improvements, in part due to a variety of grants and other programs aimed at improving road safety.
Eight states and the District of Columbia took a step towards zero in 2022, seeing a 10% or higher drop in traffic deaths according to the Council’s preliminary estimates: Oklahoma (-25%), Idaho (-19%), Rhode Island (-17%), District of Columbia (-15%), West Virginia (-15%), Montana (- 14%), Minnesota (-12%), South Dakota (-12%) and Arizona (-10%).
Simultaneously, 10 states experienced a rise in deaths of 14% or more last year: Alaska (+27%), Hawaii (+24%), Wyoming (+20%), Maine (+20%), New Hampshire (+19%), Delaware (+19%), Connecticut (+17%), Nebraska (+16%), Washington (+14%) and Indiana (+14%).