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Federal transportation report shows uptick in traffic deaths in VA, NC in first quarter of 2022

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is the deadliest start of a year on U.S. roadways in two decades.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A new report shows highway traffic deaths are up across the nation, and Virginia and North Carolina are among the highest spikes!

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported more than 9,500 traffic deaths across the nation in the first quarter of 2022, making this the deadliest start to a year on U.S. roadways in two decades.

The data reflects a 7% increase from the first three months of 2021.

Charles Brown of Virginia Beach said he is concerned to hear the report and he’s noticed a bit more reckless behavior on the road.

“Yeah, it makes me want to stay in the house more if I’m being completely honest," he said. “Wherever you’re trying to get to, it will be there when you get there. But you gotta make sure you get there, too.”

According to the federal report, 30 states saw upticks in the first quarter of 2022. The federal data shows the number of traffic deaths in Virginia rose by nearly 72%, from 170 in the first three months of 2021 to 292 over the same timeframe this year.

In North Carolina, the report shows deaths rose by 51% and climbed from 334 to over 500 traffic fatalities. Those are among the highest upticks mentioned in the federal report.

However, the report may not tell a complete story, according to local officials. The NHTSA report is based on preliminary estimates.

North Carolina Department of Transportation traffic safety engineer Brian Mayhew said the federal report is not based on the most recent data and state records show traffic deaths through July are down 6.5%.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles crash report data shows there have been 222 traffic-related deaths in the Commonwealth over the first three months of 2022.  

“But we’re still higher than normal. Let’s say if you look at the last five-year average," said Mayhew in reference to traffic deaths in North Carolina.

Mayhew said there is still a reason for concern.  

He said the dangerous trend took off during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With fewer cars on the roads, he says people drove faster and took more risks.

“Unfortunately the risky behavior has not subsided. The behavior trends that became apparent during COVID have continued on,” said Mayhew.

The best things drivers can do are slow down and be patient, he said.

The federal transportation report doesn’t break down the cause of the crashes. But it does point out drivers traveled about 40 billion more miles to start the year.

Federal transportation officials launched a public education campaign last month to discourage speeding.

They say they are also working with state officials to address dangerous driving behaviors and to protect vulnerable people on the road.

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