Cars are safer than they have ever been before and federal and local authorities are constantly bringing in new technology to make America’s roads less dangerous. It is, therefore, deeply disturbing that the death toll is continuing to rise on U.S. roads. Traffic fatalities in the first half of 2022 rose compared to 2021, one of the worst years for deaths and injuries in decades.
Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2022
Figures released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found an estimated 20,175 people died in motor vehicle wrecks in the first half of 2022, an increase of 0.5% compared to 2021.
Last year, 42,915 lives were lost on the roads of America, a 10.5% rise over 2020. It was the highest death toll since 2005.
The 2021 figure prompted a warning by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that America faces a “crisis” on its road. Every day, we witness that crisis on the highways of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Newport News as drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians suffer terrible injuries.
Addressing the Issue
Buttigieg promised to address this serious issue through the National Roadway Safety Strategy and the President’s infrastructure legislation.
A year on, it is easy to be despondent. However, NHTSA states the second quarter of 2022 from April to June contained the first decline in road deaths after seven consecutive quarters of relentless increases.
“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,” Buttigieg said.
We should not get carried away by one quarter of decline. The 2021 death toll of 42,915 lives lost was staggering. It was the largest annual increase on record. Experts have struggled to explain the spike. Some linked it to an upsurge in stress experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Road Statistics in Virginia
Virginia has also experienced the deadly trend. In 2021, 968 people lost their lives in car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents, the highest death rate since 2007. A worrying upsurge in pedestrian deaths has been recorded in Hampton Roads.
In August three pedestrians lost their lives in five days in Hampton Roads; at Virginia Beach Town Center, in Norfolk, and on Indian River Road in Virginia Beach.
Hampton Roads, in line with many other areas, has seen a rise in aggressive and reckless driving.
David Strayer, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Utah blames the “four horsemen of death” for the rise in fatalities on our highways. He said speed, impairment, fatigue, and distraction cause over 90% of vehicle crashes. The experts say all four factors can be exacerbated by pandemic stress.