Delaware has seen a 16% decrease in traffic deaths

After nearly matching a record for highway deaths in 2022, the numbers dropped last year. But state leaders warn warmer days often bring a rise in fatalities.

Highway signs on Interstate 95, Route 202 and Interstate 495 splits in Wilmington, Del. (Khairil A Junos/ BigStock)

Highway signs on Interstate 95, Route 202 and Interstate 495 splits in Wilmington, Del. (Khairil A Junos/ BigStock)

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In 2022, Delaware matched a sobering milestone for traffic fatalities at 164, just shy of the 1988 record of 165 roadway deaths.

Since that peak, Delaware has seen a 16% decrease, with 137 fatalities in 2023 compared to 164 in 2022.

Delaware Office of Highway Safety’s Meghan Niddrie notes that even since the beginning of this year, those numbers continue to decline compared to 2023.

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“As of [March 27], there were 33 fatalities [in 2023] and this is the year to date. This year in 2024, there have been 22, so right now between 2024 and 2023 we have a 33% decrease.” she said.

The decline varies across different types of fatalities.

“So far this year, we have seen decreases in bicyclists fatalities and pedestrian fatalities, bicycles are down 50% and pedestrians are down 42% compared to last year,” she said. “Fatalities of unrestrained motor vehicle occupants are still over 50% so that’s also concerning too.”

That means more than half of drivers or passengers who’ve died on Delaware roads were not wearing their seatbelts, exacerbating the risk of fatal accidents.

In its mission to address traffic fatalities, OHS officials say they remain committed to targeting disproportionately affected communities. Their recent efforts include expanded outreach and the continuation of educational programs via partners and social media outlets.

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“The top two countermeasures from our offices are funding our law enforcement partners to conduct high visibility enforcement, and then providing education through social media, events, working with partners recently within the last year,” Niddrie said. “We’ve done a lot more grassroots outreach to try to really get into the underserved and overrepresented population that we’re seeing a lot of these fatalities with.”

While progress is evident, the Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Nathaniel McQueen emphasized the need for ongoing vigilance.

“While we are encouraged by the overall decline in traffic fatalities, substantial work remains ahead,” McQueen said in a press release. “As we acknowledge this progress, let it reinforce the potential impact achievable through collective action. Let’s continue to prioritize safety and promote responsible driving habits. Together, we can forge a future where our roads become safer and secure for everyone.”

Approaching the end of the first quarter, OHS celebrates the positive trend of decreasing numbers. However, they remain cautious as warmer weather approaches. Historically, spring and summertime have been associated with an increase in crashes and fatalities.

“Although this year seems to be off to a good start with the decrease. The only acceptable number to stay is zero,” said Niddrie. “We may be showing a decrease right now, but those numbers could always rise. Especially with summertime approaching where people are traveling. There are more pedestrians, you’re seeing more bicyclists and motorcyclists using Delaware roadways.”

In April, several publicity campaigns are set to take place on social media, focusing on reminding individuals not to drive under the influence of any substance, particularly in light of the marijuana-related celebrations on 4/20.

For further insights into future road safety endeavors, DelDOT, the Delaware State Police, and OHS will be hosting a safety summit on April 17 at the Chase Center in Wilmington. The gathering will include discussions and the introduction of new initiatives aimed at enhancing road safety.

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