DETROIT (AP) — The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roadways fell slightly during the first nine months of 2022, but pedestrian and cyclist deaths continued to rise.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 31,785 people were killed in crashes from January through September last year, down 0.2% from the same period of 2021.
The agency also estimates that fatalities dropped slightly in the third quarter of the year, the second straight quarterly decline after seven quarters of year-over-year increases.
Agency Acting Administrator Ann Carlson says in a prepared statement Monday that there’s still more work to do to address a crisis on the nation’s roads. She’s urging people to drive safely and watch out for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The Governors Highway Safety Association, a group of state traffic safety officials, said the reduction in deaths is welcome, but it follows an unprecedented two-year surge in roadway deaths and dangerous driving.
The number of deaths is down by only 65 from January through September. “Today’s news is a small step forward for safer roads,” the group said, blaming the spike in the 2020 and 2021 on unsafe driver behavior including speeding, impaired and distracted driving and lack of seat belt use.
Fatalities began to rise two years ago when roads were largely empty due to stay-at-home orders in many states. With less traffic, speeds increased as did reckless and impaired driving, leading to a record spike in deaths last year, authorities have said. Many people weren’t wearing seat belts, the government said.
NHTSA says its estimates typically are close to actual numbers. Final figures for 2022 won’t be released until later