- Government figures for traffic fatalities show a higher number in the first half of 2022 than in 2021, but that’s not the whole story.
- After seven quarters of continued growth, traffic fatalities dropped in the second quarter of 2022.
- To bring about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s call to prevent as many deaths as possible, NHTSA has been updating—or will update—rules around safety features in new cars as well as considering factors outside the car, such as bikers and pedestrians.
Last year, 2021, experts recorded the most traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 16 years. The 42,915 people who died last year might represent a new high-water mark if the predicted trend for 2022 proves itself out and continues.
This month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that its early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2022 were up a tiny bit, around 0.5 percent. Compared to the first half of 2021, when an estimated 20,070 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, the first half of 2022 saw a projected 20,175 fatalities. That’s obviously an increase, but NHTSA found good news hiding in that higher number: the second quarter of 2022 represents the first decline in deaths in almost two years. The number had been steadily climbing since the third quarter of 2020, or for seven straight quarters.
“These deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and we should act accordingly,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. He added that even with the decline, NHTSA still has work to do—and is doing it—to protect all road users.
How to Make Streets Safer?
For example, Secretary Buttigieg unveiled a National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) in January. The NRSS states that almost 95 percent of the transportation deaths that occur in America happen on streets, roads, and highways, compared to traveling by things like trains or planes. To reduce the number of road fatalities, NHTSA is helping states develop a “complete streets” project and is also considering making changes to new-car rules to make them even safer than today’s models.
So far this year, NHTSA has also taken steps to improve child safety seat test standards and increase underride protection on semi-truck trailers. The agency also found that to combat the greater risk to women in crashes, it helps to make crash test dummies that are more accurately represent both male and female bodies.
More Driver-Assist Tech?
NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program might also be updated by adding four more recommended advanced driver assistance system technologies: blind-spot detection, blind spot intervention, lane-keeping assistance, and pedestrian automated emergency braking. NHTSA said it will update the NCAP over the next 10 years and will “potentially incorporate consideration of the vehicle’s safety features for people walking or biking around the car.”
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said all new vehicles should come with alcohol impairment detection systems. The NTSB recommended to NHTSA that it require passive alcohol impairment detection systems, better driver monitoring systems, or some combination of both in order to stop inebriated people from driving.
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