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Roadway deaths level off after pandemic spike, but remain high

<i>Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>The number of roadway deaths had previously been increasing since the second half of 2020
AFP via Getty Images
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
The number of roadway deaths had previously been increasing since the second half of 2020

By Gregory Wallace

Roadway deaths leveled off last year after spiking during the pandemic, according to federal estimates released Thursday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated 42,795 people were killed on US roads in 2022. It’s a dip of fewer than 150 deaths from highs reached in 2021, when the agency recorded the largest quarterly spike in its history of tracking roadway fatalities.

Deaths last year declined in 27 states and increased in 23 states, the administration said. Americans also drove marginally more miles in 2022 than the previous year, according to the estimates.

The report reflects that “there is too much loss of life on our roadways,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg told CNN.

“Tragically, the fatality numbers really jumped during the pandemic years and unfortunately they’ve stayed stubbornly high,” Trottenberg said. She noted these figures represent “our family and our friends and our coworkers and our neighbors and our fellow Americans.”

The number of roadway deaths had previously been increasing since the second half of 2020, according to the administration.

Deaths began climbing during the coronavirus pandemic as travel patterns changed. While driving initially declined, police nationwide reported a surge in reckless driving, including speeding along roads that in normal times were congested.

Many motorists declined to buckle up and an increasing number of drivers involved in crashes tested positive for opioids and other drugs, according to law enforcement and traffic safety experts.

Earlier this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association noted a spike in pedestrian deaths, calling it particularly concerning and a “safety crisis on our roads.” The group attributed the increase in pedestrian fatalities to those changed driving patterns, as well as road design and a greater prevalence of heavy vehicles, like SUVs.

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