Traffic accidents in Virginia and around the country claimed 42,795 lives in 2022 according to a report released in April by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That worrying figure actually represents a 0.03% drop from the 42,939 killed in 2021, which was the highest annual traffic accident death toll in 16 years. The roads have become more dangerous in recent years, and the data shows that a surge in dangerous driving behavior is the cause.
Accident rates began to rise in early 2020 when travel restrictions and work-from-home orders emptied the roads. Drivers responded by engaging in reckless behavior like speeding, using cellphones and driving while under the influence. The 2020 NHTSA fatalities report shows that these bad habits have taken root. Distracted driving fatalities rose by 12% in 2022, and speed-related deaths increased by 7.9%. Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities both rose in 2022, and the number of road users killed in drunk driving accidents increased by 14%.
Virginia traffic accident statistics
Virginia’s 2022 traffic accident statistics are even more concerning. Fatalities were down slightly across the country, but they increased in Virginia. Accident deaths in the commonwealth rose by 4.1% in 2022, and more than 1,000 people died on Virginia’s roads for the first time since 2007. The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in motor vehicle accidents in Virginia increased by 19.4% in 2022, and this has created a problem for lawmakers. Cyclist and pedestrian fatalities now make up more than 15% of Virginia’s road deaths, which means the state must now spend at least 15% of its federal highway improvement funding on pedestrian and cyclist safety programs.
Roads are not the problem
The NHTSA report was received with calls for more infrastructure spending, and the release of Virginia’s pedestrian fatality figures set off a debate over road improvement projects. Bicycle lanes, raised curbs and better intersections will not prevent accidents caused by speeding, intoxicated or distracted drivers, but more rigorous law enforcement could. If lawmakers want to make the nation’s roads safer, they should encourage the police to clamp down on reckless driving.