Pennsylvania Traffic Deaths Fall 4% After Increasing for Years


Pennsylvania recorded a slight decline in the number of traffic deaths in 2022, though some types of fatalities increased while others fell to the lowest level in decades.

Statewide traffic deaths fell to 1,179 in 2022, compared to 1,230 in 2021---a 4% drop, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Overall crashes, too, have dropped: the agency noted reportable crashes fell to their second-lowest level since 1951.

Nationally, almost 43,000 people died in traffic crashes in 2022, a small 0.3% decrease from a year ago.

"Pennsylvania is committed to moving toward zero deaths," interim PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said in a release. "Our biggest priority continues to be safe travel across all transportation modes, and we continue to work with our partners to decrease fatalities through education and enforcement."

Some significant reductions came from speeding crashes (down to 169 deaths compared to 201), deaths from hitting fixed objects (down to 361 compared to 397), and deaths from not using a seat belt (down to 354 compared to 378).

Bicyclist deaths also fell to 15, compared to 24 in 2021.

Other types of crash fatalities, however, went up.

“Fatalities in distracted driving crashes and head-on crashes reached a 10-year high, while fatalities in crashes at signalized intersections reached a 20-year high,” PennDOT noted. “Pedestrian fatalities reached the second highest number in 20 years, while fatalities in crashes involving 65- to 74-year-old drivers reached the third highest number in 20 years.”

Despite the recent reduction, traffic fatalities have crept up for years.

“While the overall decrease in Pennsylvania fatalities is encouraging, it's important to note that the safety gains are not felt equally,” said Heidi Simon, director of thriving communities at Smart Growth America. “Pedestrian fatalities are still seeing a historic rise. Cities and states should continue to look to policies and programs, such as Complete Streets, that support multi-modal transportation and prioritize the safety of our most vulnerable road users.”

Complete Streets is an approach advocated by SGA to redesign roads for safety and to include cyclists, pedestrians and other users beyond drivers.

Those reform ideas may be necessary to reverse the national fatality trend.

Nationally, non-pedestrian traffic deaths went up by 13% from 2010-20, and pedestrian deaths jumped by 54%. In Pennsylvania, pedestrian deaths went up 21% since 2019, as The Center Square previously reported. Distracted driving has also steadily risen in Pennsylvania as driver behavior has changed.

“Improvements in road design can benefit all road users and can encourage safe behavior much more effectively than behavioral education campaigns,” Simon said. “Even user-based causes like distracted driving can be mitigated by changes to the built environment.”

Smart Growth America advocates for changes such as lowering speed limits, redesigning streets to match lower speed limits, and reducing “conflict points” where different types of transportation modes meet.

We thank The Center Square for reprint permission.

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