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As we take our initial steps into 2023, there's good news in early data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding traffic deaths in the US. In the first nine months of 2022, fatalities are down 0.2 percent versus the same period in 2021. It's not much, but it's at least something positive after nearly two straight years of increases.

The news is actually a bit better than the 0.2-percent figure conveys. For starters, the slight decrease comes as drivers spend additional time on the road, covering 1.6 percent more miles. The decrease also includes an initial increase of 7.0 percent for the first quarter of 2022. Back-to-back declines of 5.8 percent in the second and 0.8 percent in Q3 take us to where we're at now.

Bringing some context to the percentages, there were 31,785 estimated traffic deaths from January 1 through September 30, 2022. That compares to 31,850 in 2021. This year, distance is up to 39 billion miles traveled, making the fatality rate 1.30 per 100 million cumulative miles traveled.

A deeper look shows that fatalities decreased by 10 percent with children under 16, and 8 percent from ages 16 to 24. Fatal crashes also decreased 10 percent on urban and local roads, 9 percent in rollovers, 7 percent involving unbelted and ejected passengers, and 2 percent in speed-related situations. However, deaths are up by 12 percent on rural interstate highways. Fatal crashes involving cyclists are up 8 percent, up 5 percent for motorcycle riders, and 2 percent for pedestrians. Fatalities involving at least one large truck are up 10 percent.

"Fatalities have not increased for two quarters now, but we have far more work to do to save lives and address the crisis on our nation's roadways," said NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson. "That means investing in safety, implementing strategies that work, and embracing the safe system approach outlined in the Department’s National Roadway Safety Strategy. We urge everyone to do their part by driving safely and watching out for others on the road, especially vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.”

NHTSA plans to have a full-year estimate for 2022 available in late April.

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