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Accident fatalities rates declined last year

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Over the last few years, there has been an increase in fatal accident rates. This was first noted between 2019 and 2020, when there was an increase of 7%. The next year, from 2020 to 2021, was originally predicted to see a decline in fatalities due to a corresponding drop in traffic levels. However, there was actually a 10% increase, as fatalities just became more common, even though traffic volumes were down significantly.

At the beginning of 2022, reports seemed to indicate that another spike in fatality rates was happening. The first few months did witness an increase. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently put out a report stating that around 42,795 people passed away in accidents that year overall. In 2021, the total was 42,939. This means that there was a decrease in fatalities of about 0.3% from the previous year as a whole. It’s a very small decrease, but it is still quite interesting – and even hopeful – because of the massive increases of the two years before.

Did traffic levels play a major role?

The fact that lower traffic levels actually corresponded to higher fatal accident rates has puzzled researchers and regulators, to a certain extent. A theory to explain this was that traffic congestion actually slows cars down, meaning accidents happen at lower speeds and are less likely to be fatal. Removing vehicles from the road didn’t keep anyone safer because it just caused the remaining vehicles to speed up.

If true, that could also explain the decrease in fatality rates during 2022. Traffic levels have returned to what they were prior to 2019, or they are at least heading in that direction. The greater traffic congestion is theoretically slowing drivers down again, meaning that accidents that do occur are less severe, even though there are more cars on the road.

Of course, it’s difficult to tell if this is actually happening without analyzing long-term trends as the spike of the past few years hopefully continues to recede. As a result, it remains particularly important for motorists to drive defensively as the danger of fatal accidents remains very real.