A review of publicly available data from the Philadelphia Police Department shows that there were 63 traffic fatalities in the first six months of 2022. This number is higher than the number of deaths in the first six months of 2019 (46 deaths), 2020 (56 deaths) and 2021 (58 deaths).
The charts above compare 2019-2021’s monthly traffic fatality data from PennDOT to 2022’s monthly traffic fatality data from the Philadelphia Police Department.
2022’s preliminary data* doesn’t bode well for where the year may end with respect to traffic violence. Of course, six month figures aren’t necessarily predictive. As the chart above shows, the six month figures for 2020 and 2021 did not predict the final figures in those years. 2021 saw more traffic fatalities than 2020 at the 6 month mark, but 2020 ended with more traffic deaths than 2021.
That said, if 2022’s monthly death rate going forward resembles that of the fall and winter of the past two years, it’s a safe guess that 2022 will be the third bad year in a row. It’s also important to note that traffic fatalities in 2021 and 2022 could have been worse. The number of traffic fatalities in 2021 and 2022 reflect the impact of automated speed enforcement; according to Professor Erik Guerra of the University of Pennsylvania, there were eight fewer fatal crashes on Roosevelt Boulevard due to the automated speed cameras.
Fundamentally, the troubling upward trend in traffic fatalities for 2022 tells us that policy changes and changes to road infrastructure designs must be pursued even more aggressively by the City to achieve Vision Zero goals. Adequate funding and accelerated implementation of Vision Zero projects is an imperative. Passing new state laws that advance road safety—like HB140 and legislation expanding the presence of automated speed cameras—is urgently necessary to eliminate the traffic violence that destroys the lives of victims and forever alters the lives of their loved ones.
Why is this high level of fatal crashes persisting and perhaps worsening? Some potential reasons: new traffic patterns, increased speeding and reckless driving behavior, increased prevalence of larger trucks and heavier SUVs. The “why” is a tough question to answer, but we do have to better understand why fatal crashes are increasing in Philadelphia—possibly for three years in a row—in order to make lasting change.
Notes about the data
*In Pennsylvania, traffic crash reports are collected by police departments and submitted to PennDOT annually. PennDOT analyzes the data from all over the state and after a few months, releases it. Therefore, the 2022 data compiled by Philadelphia’s Police Department will not be analyzed, cleaned for errors and released until mid-2023. Consequently, there may be a difference between what the Philadelphia PD reports in one year and what PennDOT reports in the following year.
Additionally, there are discrepancies between what PennDOT reports for the County of Philadelphia in its Pennsylvania Crash Information Tool (PCIT), and what Philadelphia reports in its annual Vision Zero reports. PennDOT’s PCIT includes fatalities that occur on interstates, while Philadelphia’s Vision Zero reports only include fatalities that occur on city and state surface roads.