2022 was a tragic year on NH roads

Jan. 3—People died on New Hampshire's roadways at an alarming rate in 2022.

As of Dec. 30, 139 people were killed in 130 crashes, according to the Department of Safety.

And every one of them was someone's child, parent, sibling or best friend.

The number of motor vehicle fatalities has been rising in recent years, from 104 in 2020 to 118 in 2021. It jumped again in 2022.

And "the vast majority" of those fatal crashes were preventable, according to Capt. Christopher Vetter, commander of the Department of Safety's Office of Highway Safety.

"People continue to drive too fast, they continue to drive impaired, they continue to drive distracted, and in some cases they're not using their safety restraints," Vetter said in a recent interview.

Many of the crashes in 2022 remain under investigation so there's a lag in determining some of the factors involved, Vetter said.

But the data show that in 2021 at least 20 people who died in fatal crashes in New Hampshire were not wearing seat belts, he said.

And while weather and road conditions often get blamed for crashes, Vetter said, that's not really the case. "If the road conditions caused the crash, then every car that drove on the road would be in an accident," he said.

Instead, the same factors are usually at play — speed, impairment and distracted driving, he said. "These crashes are often the result of not just use of alcohol or speed or distraction, but often more than one," he said.

In 2022, 32 people died in motorcycle crashes, compared with 25 in 2021. Pedestrian fatalities were also up, from eight in 2021 to 12 in 2022.

Vetter said his office always tries to find new ways to reach people with highway safety messages. Enforcement can't be the only approach, he said; efforts also focus on educating the public.

"How do we teach people that this could happen to them?" he asked. "These crashes don't always happen to somebody else. They could happen to you."

And sometimes those killed did nothing at all wrong, he said.

"We hate to see any loss of life, but very often those that cause the crash are not the ones losing their lives," Vetter said. "That happens a lot.

"So we have victims who are truly innocent, and that makes it even more sad," Vetter said.

Every fatal crash has repercussions far beyond those involved, Vetter said. "It's like throwing a rock in the water," he said. "It just goes out and impacts so many people, whether it's friends and family, other victims."

First responders and medical personnel are not immune to the trauma and tragedy, Vetter said. Telling someone their loved one has died in a crash is "one of the most difficult tasks that police officers undertake," he said.

"Because you're not trained for it," he said. "And you are forever altering somebody's life by delivering that message.

"In many cases, the fear and pain is in their face before you even deliver the message," he said.