Sep 19, 2022 - Economy

U.S. traffic deaths fall but issue "remains a crisis"

Traffic moves through midtown Manhattan on August 31, 2022 in New York City.

Traffic in midtown Manhattan. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The number of deaths from traffic accidents declined during the second quarter of 2022 — after seven consecutive quarters of year-to-year increases, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday.

Why it matters: Motor vehicle traffic deaths have surged during the pandemic, and Monday's figures indicate that the trend may be cooling — but levels remain higher than before the pandemic.

  • "Although it is heartening to see a projected decline in roadway deaths in recent months, the number of people dying on roads in this country remains a crisis," Ann Carlson, NHTSA's acting administrator, said in a statement.

Driving the news: Overall, U.S. traffic deaths increased 0.5% during the first half of 2022, in comparison to the same period in 2021, NHTSA found.

  • Approximately 20,175 people died from traffic accidents during the first half of 2022 — the highest number of deaths during that period since 2006.
  • Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration also shows that vehicle miles traveled during the first half of 2022 increased by about 43.2 billion miles, or 2.8%.

The big picture: Traffic deaths in the U.S. have risen during the pandemic, despite fewer people on the roads.

  • Buttigieg in January announced a National Roadway Safety Strategy to bolster road safety, which uses layers of protection measures in an attempt to reduce deaths, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

What they're saying: "Traffic deaths appear to be declining for the first time since 2020, but they are still at high levels that call for urgent and sustained action," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

  • "These deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and we should act accordingly."

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