The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed virtually every part of American society overnight, leaving the roads empty and many areas feeling like ghost towns. At the same time, many people took advantage of the open roads with reckless driving and extreme speeds. So even though there were fewer people on the roads, more people died traffic accidents than before, with fatalities reaching nearly 39,000 in 2020. The numbers continued to rise through 2021, reaching a peak of 42,915, but they have fallen for two years in a row, according to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The NHTSA noted that the number of traffic fatalities fell by 3.6 percent last year to 40,990. That’s down from 42,514 in 2022, but still higher than any pre-pandemic year since 2008. Higher numbers of drunk drivers, driving too fastand people driving without seatbelts contributed significantly to the totals.

Although the number of traffic fatalities decreased between 2022 and 2023In 2022, the number of deaths among pedestrians and cyclists increased. A total of 7,522 pedestrians and 1,105 cyclists were killed, the highest numbers since 1981 for pedestrians and 1980 for cyclists. More drivers age 65 or older also died in 2022, up 4.7 percent to 7,870, the highest number since NHTSA began keeping records in 1975.

The agency released the figures as it kicks off its ‘Put the Phone Down or Pay Up’ safety campaign, which aims to remind motorists of the dangers of distracted driving. It was noted that 3,308 people were killed and an astonishing 289,310 people were injured due to distracted driving. So while traffic fatalities are slowly declining, distracted drivers remain a significant threat to ‘vulnerable road users’ such as pedestrians, cyclists and others.

The NHTSA recorded 621 such deaths in distraction-related crashes in 2022. Deputy director Sophie Shulman said: “Distraction comes in many forms, but it is also preventable. Our updated campaign reminds everyone to put down the phone or pay up, because distracted driving can cost you fines – or even cost your life or the life of someone else on the road.”

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