Motor vehicle fatalities on rise in recent years

Motor vehicle accidents and unsafe driving have been a huge subject of conversation for the greater part of the 21st century. And while vehicular fatalities have seen a rise over the past few years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that roadway fatalities began to level off over the first nine months of 2022.

Motor vehicle fatalities have been on the rise in recent years. The chief causes are driving under the influence, distracted driving, drowsy driving and speeding. (Photo courtesy of National Safety Council)

In 2022, the state of New Mexico saw an average of 1.28 people die from a car accident every day for a total of 467 deaths on the year, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

A variation of factors led to this many accidents over the course of the year with the majority (23%) of them being related to alcohol. Although many alternatives to driving drunk like Uber and Lyft have become more prevalent over the years, driving under the influence is still a huge problem.

Organizations like Traffic Safety Marketing and the New Mexico Department of Transportation have detailed many ways that drivers can be safe on the roads and help decrease the number of traffic fatalities seen each year.

Some of the most prevalent problems on New Mexico roadways are impaired driving (drug and alcohol), distracted driving, drowsy driving and speeding.

Driving while impaired, whether it be by drugs or alcohol, has been the cause of a majority of roadway accidents and fatalities in years past. NMDOT looks to state, city, county and tribal law enforcement to crack down on impaired driving throughout the state of New Mexico. The ENDWI campaign highlights many laws and penalties, statistics and safety tips, and also encourages people to become “drunk busters” and report drunk drivers via a drunk driver hotline.

How should you report a drunk driver?

  • Call the toll-free hotline: 877-394-4258 (877-DWI-HALT)
  • Give the exact location of the suspected drunk driver.
  • Give the color, make, model and license plate of the vehicle.
  • Describe what the vehicle is doing.
  • Give your name and telephone number.
  • Use common sense when contacting the hotline.
  • Use a hands-free device if contacting while in your vehicle.

TSM’s initiative to tackle distracted driving focuses on ways to change driving behaviors through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education. This can be seen in TSM’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign that highlights the dangers and consequences of distracted driving. With phones, tablets, headphones and screens in cars becoming more and more useful and popular, many distractions while driving are becoming easier to access on a daily basis.

As far as drowsy driving goes, TSM reports that driving while sleepy is becoming far too prevalent, and is responsible for close to 1.2 million crashes per year nationwide. The NHTSA encourages drivers to take a break if they become sleepy while on the road. Stopping every two hours for rest or a nap is one way to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

Lastly, speeding fatalities have increased each of the last four years in the U.S. In 2020, speeding was the cause of 29% of all traffic fatalities, according to a National Safety Council analysis of NHTSA data. Many campaigns have highlighted the vast legal consequences of speeding, especially for repeat offenders. 

While government agencies, law enforcement and public service campaigns work to decrease the number of traffic fatalities, road safety starts with the individual behind the wheel. Motorists can choose what type of driver they want to be, for their own safety and everyone around them. 

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