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US Traffic Deaths Drop But Still Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels

The inside of a vehicle following a serious car accident. Airbags are deployed and the windshield is smashed.

Unfortunately, fatal accidents in the Tri-State Area are up.

After years of rising roadway deaths, U.S. fatal crashes dropped by 3.3 percent in the first half of 2023, according to early estimates. The news is being cautiously celebrated by traffic safety advocates. Although car accident deaths fell to 19,515, the figure still represents about 2,500 more deaths than what was reported over the same period pre-pandemic.

The data comes from the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration. Acting NHTSA administrator Ann Carlson explained that the rise in pandemic crashes was likely due to misconceptions about the safety of open roads. This resulted in higher speeding and risky driving behavior that has carried on for years. Last year marked a 16-year high for total U.S. road deaths. But Carlson noted that drivers now appear to be improving.

"I do think people got in the habit of speeding more," said Carlson in an interview. Some drivers "got a sense probably they could get away with it probably."

Tri-state area crash data

The NHTSA's annual early fatal accident estimates were revealed in late September 2023. The report noted that the decrease in fatalities coincides with an increase in miles traveled. The overall fatality rate fell from 1.31 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles to 1.24.

Unfortunately, this trend does not seem to have made its way to the Tri-State Area, where fatal car accidents have increased. Here are the NHTSA statistics:

Ohio - 6 percent increase over 2022

  • 568 fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents, January-June 2022
  • 602 fatalities over the same period in 2023
  • 1.08 motor vehicle deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (vmt) so far this year

Pennsylvania - 4.5 percent increase

  • 534 motor vehicle fatalities, 2022
  • 558 fatalities, 2023
  • 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vmt

West Virginia - 2.6 percent increase

  • 122 fatalities, 2022
  • 125 fatalities, 2023
  • 1.58 fatalities per 100 million vmt

Where and why car accidents happen

Fatal car accidents can happen anywhere, but some roadways see more crashes in the Tri-State Area than others. Since 2018, multiple fatal accidents have been reported on US 22 from Steubenville to Weirton and Pittsburgh. Also, Route 43 from Richmond to Beechwood has had several fatal crashes in the last several years.

The most common factors in fatal and injury-causing car accidents are things that drivers can control. For example, almost 1 in 10 fatal accidents are caused by distracted driving. Nationwide, factors frequently contributing to fatal accidents include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (drunk driving, DUI, DWI, OWI)
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigued or drowsy driving
  • Hit-and-run
  • Lack of seat belt use

About 50-60 percent of fatal crash victims are not wearing safety belts. Considering over 90 percent of U.S. adults reliably wear seatbelts, the number of unbelted deaths is dramatic.

Crash victims deserve justice and accountability

If you were injured or a loved one died in a Tri-State Area car accident, experienced legal representation can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your case. At Recht Law Offices, our car accident lawyers can protect your rights and guide you through the process of seeking compensation for your losses. Our attorneys know how to handle complex cases and can fight for every dollar you deserve. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation to see how we can help you. Based in Weirton, West Virginia, we serve the region, including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Steubenville, Ohio.

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