Understanding NHTSA Crash Reports
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes during the first quarter of 2022. This is a 7% increase from the 8,935 fatalities reported during the first quarter of 2021. Here are the numbers thus far.
2022 First Quarter Estimates
The estimates released by the NHTSA show that motor vehicle fatalities increased nationwide. Specifically, in Colorado, first-quarter estimates show 137 deaths for the first quarter of 2022 compared to 123 deaths for the first quarter of 2021 — an 11.4% increase in traffic fatalities thus far. Passenger car occupants experienced the most significant increase in fatalities, followed by occupants of light trucks (SUVs, pickups, and vans).
According to the data, there were marked increases in fatalities and the fatality rate per 100 million VMT (vehicle miles traveled) in 2020. The increased trend of fatalities in 2020 continued into 2021, with the first quarter of 2022 seeing a further increase. The NHTSA attributes the increases to a variety of factors, including more people driving due to the COVID-19 pandemic, higher speeds, and distracted driving. They are urging drivers to be extra cautious on the roads and to avoid distractions while driving.
NHTSA’s Early Estimates report is based on data received by states through May 31 for fatal crashes that occurred in the first quarter of the year. The report uses the most reliable data available at this time to produce quarterly projections of traffic fatalities. However, these early estimates may change as additional information becomes available. Read on to learn the final statistics reported for 2021.
U.S. Traffic Deaths Hit 16-year High in 2021
According to a May 2022 report from CNBC, traffic deaths soared to their highest level in 16 years in 2021 as Americans drove more during the pandemic. There were 43,510 fatalities on U.S. roads last year, an 8% increase from 2019 and the highest number since 37,133 people died in 2005, according to preliminary data reported by the NHTSA. The total is also 36% higher than the 32,479 deaths in 2020 when the pandemic kept many people homebound.
The rise in traffic deaths came as Americans drove a record 3.25 trillion miles last year, an increase of 850 billion — or 35% — from 2019 levels, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s an all-time high and about 10% above the pre-pandemic record set in 2019. Highway deaths had declined for years before hitting a low of 32,479 in 2020 as the pandemic curtailed travel. They began to rebound as states reopened businesses and lifted restrictions on movement last summer.
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