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Despite modern car safety features, traffic deaths are on the rise. However, driving tends to be safer in some U.S. regions than others, and NHTSA data from the first half of 2022 shows some states have significantly lower traffic fatality rates. For instance, one Northeastern state reported only 14 traffic deaths for the first half of the year, but other areas proved to be much more dangerous

The NHTSA released early traffic death estimates for 2022

For the first half of 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated 20,175 traffic fatalities occurred in the United States. That represents a slight increase in deaths over the first half of 2021, which saw 20,070 fatalities. Troublingly, the NHTSA noted a trend in rising year-over-year traffic deaths. 

That fact might come as a surprise considering modern cars have more safety features than ever before. And advanced driver-assistance systems, such as automatic emergency braking, can help reduce fatalities.

The higher death rates could be attributed to car accidents involving more risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, distracted driving, and speeding

These U.S. states had fewer traffic fatalities

Rhode Island traffic deaths are low
Traffic heading south on Interstate 95 into Providence, Rhode Island | Darren McCollester/Getty Images

No state saw fewer traffic deaths in the first half of 2022 than Rhode Island. Only 14 traffic fatalities occurred there in that period. That number makes sense considering Rhode Island’s small size, but it also had the lowest rate of traffic deaths.

The NHTSA calculates the traffic fatality rate as motorist deaths per 100 million miles driven. Rhode Island had only 0.38 deaths per 100 million miles driven in the first half of 2022. Minnesota and Massachusetts tied for the second-lowest rate at 0.68, and the difference between that and Rhode Island’s rate shows how safe the Ocean State’s roads appear. Other states have overall low traffic death numbers but relatively high rates. That’s true of Alaska, which had only 34 recorded deaths in the first half of 2022 but a rate of 1.23 deaths per 100 million miles. 

One notable trend in the NHTSA data is that most lower traffic fatality rates come from Northern states. Rhode Island was exceptionally safe, but other nearby states, such as New York and New Jersey, also ranked well. 

Which states had the most traffic deaths?

Meanwhile, states in the South had higher traffic fatality rates. South Carolina saw the highest rate in the nation, with 1.71 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. Mississippi and Arkansas came in second and third with 1.64 and 1.63. 

Florida stood out among other states for its number of fatalities in the first half of the year. The state had 1,951 traffic deaths and the fifth-highest rate of 1.58 deaths per 100 million miles. 

However, Texas recorded the highest number of traffic fatalities in the first half of 2022, with 2,183. Because of the state’s size and population, that number is unsurprising, but Texas also had a high rate of traffic fatalities, with 1.5 deaths per 100 million miles.

The second-most traffic deaths in a state occurred in California, but the Golden State also had a much lower rate. California had 2,149 fatalities, slightly fewer than Texas, but only 1.29 deaths per 100 million miles. 


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