Highway accident deaths show no signs of slowing this year, with fatalities spiking an estimated 7% nationwide during the first quarter of 2022.
Preliminary numbers compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggest Texas also experienced a 5.6% increase in traffic deaths during the first three months of the year.
“Tragically, the U.S. is on its way to a third straight year of surging roadway deaths,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told The Houston Chronicle. “Another new report of an increase in lives lost may feel a bit like Groundhog Day, but we must not become desensitized to the tragedy of roadway deaths.”
9,650 People were Killed on U.S. Roads From January through March of 2022
At least 9,650 people died on the nation’s roads and highways during the first three months of 2022; 625 more than were killed during the same period in 2021. It was also the highest number of people killed in the January-to-March period since 2002. Texas was one of 29 states and Washington, D.C. to report increases. Nineteen states and Puerto Rico saw traffic deaths decline during the first quarter of 2022.
The fatality rate for the first quarter of 2022 increased to 1.27 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), up from the projected rate of 1.25 deaths per 100 million VMT in the first quarter of 2021.
NHTSA Region 3, which encompasses Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., experienced the largest increase in fatalities, with a 52% spike. Only Region 9, which includes Arizona, California, and Hawaii, saw a decrease, with highway deaths falling 11% in the first quarter of 2022. Region 8 – North and South Dakota – and Region 4 – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina – experienced no change in their fatality rates.
DUI, Lack of Seatbelt Use Biggest Contributors to Texas Highway Deaths
Officials continue to blame drivers for the spiking death rate.
“Driver behavior has clearly changed,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams told The Houston Chronicle. “Driver behavior and a lack of enforcement in many areas appear to be key contributors to what we have seen over the past two-plus years now. Speeding, driving under the influence and not wearing seatbelts are the biggest contributors to fatalities in Texas.
These latest findings come just months after the NHTSA issued its estimate of traffic fatalities for all of 2021, projecting the highest number of deaths since 2005. According to the agency, around 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, representing a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.
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