The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2022 today. The agency estimated that 9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the first quarter of 2022 which is an increase of 7% compared with Q1 2021.

The last time fatalities were this high during the first quarter of any year was in 2002. The NHTSA noted that the fatality rate for Q1 2022 increased to 1.27 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) which is higher than the projected rate of 1.25 fatalities per 100 VMT in Q1 2021. Despite the increase in fatalities, Puerto Rico and 19 states saw a decline in traffic deaths during the first quarter of this year.

The report included a regional breakdown that showed the highest and lowest fatalities by region. Region 3, which consists of Washington, D.C, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Deleware, and Kentucky had the highest percentage of fatalities (52%.)

nhtsa estimates record increase in fatalities nationwide

Credit: NHTSA

Dr. Steven Cliff, the NHTSA Administrator said that the numbers are moving in the wrong direction. He called on states to “double down” on traffic safety.

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction. Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions, and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives.”

The agency said that ending traffic fatalities across the U.S. is a top priority of the Department of Transportation and highlighted the National Roadway Safety Strategy. The National Roadway Safety Strategy prioritizes reducing traffic fatalities. According to the letter from Secretary Pete Buttigieg, around 95% of the transportation deaths in the U.S. take place on streets, roads, and highways. He added that they are on the rise; noting that in 2020, an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes.

The strategy plans to use the Safe System Approach which focuses on five objectives: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care. The NHTSA also said that it launched its annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Labor Day campaign.

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