Traffic crashes finally show signs of slowing down – but not in Florida

Overall, fatalities on U.S. roadways fell in early 2022 for the first time in almost two years.

Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay

Traffic deaths decreased overall across the U.S. for the first time in nearly two years this spring, federal regulators reported Monday.

The overall number of road fatalities, however, remained stuck at their highest level since 2006. And in Florida, the number of estimated fatalities jumped from 1,913 in the first half of 2021 to 1,951 in the first half of this year, for a 2% increase, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

“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. These deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and we should act accordingly,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

The estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that traffic fatalities between April and June dipped by 4.9% compared to the same time last year. That’s the first decrease in seven quarters. 

The declines, though, were not enough to offset a 7.3% increase in the first quarter of 2022. Fatalities for the first half of the year remained 0.5% higher than in the first half of 2021.

“We all hope this is the start of a downward trend in fatalities,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said at a conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association Monday, according to The Associated Press. But the size of the decline was not enough, she said. “This is not the new normal we want.”

The number of people who have died on U.S. roads rose rapidly after the first few months of the pandemic. NHTSA estimates that 42,915 people were killed on streets during 2021, a yearly death toll more than 10,000 higher than a decade before.

Safety advocates are still trying to determine why the numbers shot up so suddenly in the last two years. Some blame drivers for behaving more recklessly at a time of societal upheaval, while others think changing traffic patterns have encouraged drivers to travel at faster speeds, increasing the likelihood and severity of fatal crashes.

Daniel C. Vock is a Washington, D.C.-based senior reporter for Route Fifty, where this story was first published. 

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