The number of road users killed in motor vehicle accidents in West Virginia and around the country fell, albeit slightly, during the first three quarters of 2022 according to data released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The figures show that traffic accidents claimed 31,785 lives between January and September, which is 0.02% lower than the death toll during the first nine months of 2021.
Vulnerable road users
Closer scrutiny of the NHTSA data reveals that almost all of the lives saved were passenger vehicle occupants. Death rates among the most vulnerable road users continue to rise. While the overall traffic accident death rate fell slightly, the number of cyclists killed rose by 8%, motorcyclist deaths increased by 5% and pedestrian fatalities climbed by 2%. Road deaths on rural interstates and in crashes involving large commercial vehicles also rose sharply.
The latest accident statistics suggest that the alarming rise in road deaths observed over the last few years is finally slowing. Road deaths surged in 2020 after travel restrictions cleared the roads and motorists responded by acting recklessly. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the ensuing rise in wrongful death auto accident fatalities was chiefly caused by speeding, impaired driving and vehicle occupants not using seat belts.
A very small step
The reported 0.02% drop in traffic deaths equates to 65 fewer fatalities, but this good news should be weighed against an alarming rise in cyclist, motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths. A lot more work needs to be done to make the nation’s roads safer, and road users must be made to understand that reckless behavior like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, using mobile devices while behind the wheel and speeding kill thousands of people each year.