US road deaths in the first half of 2022 hit their highest level in 16 years

US road deaths rose 0.5% in the first half of 2022 to 20,175, the highest number of fatalities since 2006, according to an initial estimate released by US regulators.

Road deaths jumped after pandemic shutdowns ended as more drivers engaged in dangerous behavior. The National Road Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Monday in the second quarter, road deaths fell 4.9%, the first drop in the number of deaths after seven consecutive quarters of increases in the number of deaths year on year, but still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

US road deaths hit a 20-year high in early 2022

As US roads have become less congested during the pandemic, some motorists have perceived police to be less likely to issue tickets, experts say, likely leading to riskier behavior on the roads.

NHTSA research indicates that speeding and traveling without a seatbelt were higher than before the pandemic.

In 2021, the number of pedestrians killed jumped 13% to 7,342, the most since 1981. The number of people on bicycles who were killed rose 5% to 985, the most since at least 1980, a said the NHTSA.

Pedestrian fatalities expected to reach highest level in 40 years

NOTHTSA lost its administrator earlier this month after Steve Cliff took a leadership role with the California Air Resources Board and the agency is led on an interim basis by its general counsel Ann Carlson, who said despite the drop in second quarter “the number of people dying on the roads of this country remains a crisis.

Security advocacy groups have urged the administration to move quickly to fill NHTSA’s top job, which has never been filled under President Donald Trump.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters last week that the administration was “actively working” to select a candidate to fill NHTSA’s top job.

Buttigieg said the United States needs safer drivers, vehicles, roads and speeds.

“These deaths are preventable, not inevitable, and we must act accordingly,” Buttigieg said in a statement Monday.

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