Opioid deaths, yes. . . what about traffic fatalities?




I worked my time for over 30 years as a funeral director in a community located along the interstate highway system.  That vast amount of traffic passing by us unfortunately led to a few incidents of multiple fatalities that were directed to our funeral home for help in removal and trade services.


It was never pleasant. . . I can remember multiple incidents of three fatalities and four fatalities and even one incident when there were five decedents in one accident.  In those instances it was “all hands on deck” at the funeral home for all five of our funeral directors including me, who didn’t see a lot of time in the prep room in the later days of my career — those incidents, however, brought me back there.


According to the New York Times, the much publicized opioid epidemic probably brought about 110,000 deaths to Americans in 2022.  While reading this article on how the $1.2 billion “Infrastructure law” may help out the transportation avenues around the country, I stumbled upon a report for traffic deaths in the United States which led me to this report from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHSA) which I found very interesting and informative.


Here’s some things that I learned:


  • Traffic fatalities are calculated by the number of fatalities over a constant of what is known as Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).  The statistics noted in this article indicate “How many deaths per 100 million VMT”.  So, a lower number is a better number (less deaths) and a higher number indicates more deaths per 100 million VMT.


  • The national figure for traffic fatalities per 100 million VMT was 1.35 in 2022.


  • Traffic fatalites dropped slightly both per capita and per VMT in 2022 over 2021.  The NHSA calculates that there were 42,795 traffic fatalities in 2022 as compared to 42,939 in 2021.  Even better news is that that was accomplished with Americans having driven an estimated 29.3 billion miles more than in 2021.  That dropped the national fatality rate from 1.37 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2021 to 1.35 deaths per 100 million VMT in 2022.


  • According to the report from the NHSA, the deadliest state for fatalities per VMT in 2022 was South Carolina with a figure of 1.84 fatalities per 100 million VMT.  They were also the deadliest in 2021 with a rate of 2.07 fatalities per 100 million VMT.


  • It appears that the safest state for driving in 2022 was Rhode Island with a rate of 0.69 traffic fatalities per 100 million VMT.


  • For the past decade traffic fatalities have been increasing, but “The fourth quarter of 2022 represents the third straight quarterly decline in fatalities after 7 consecutive quarters of year-to-year increases in fatalities, beginning with the third quarter of 2020″ according to the NHSA report.


And, just a reminder as we enter into the Summer season.  The summer months of June, July, and August, represent the highest number of fatalities per 100 million VMT as the average for those months for the past couple of years has been 1.40.


Funeral Director Daily take:  Being a small town “front-line” funeral director requires the wearing of many hats.  I never liked wearing the hat that put me in position of being a responder to these incidents.  The carnage was many times incredible, but like law enforcement and other respondents to these accidents we some how received the adrenaline to get us through the task.


My “hat” is off to every funeral director, first responder, and the law enforcement personnel who are from time to time called to this duty in their community.  Thank you.


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