Number of traffic fatalities returns to normal level in '23

My horseshoe crab tag was placed on a horseshoe crab in 2019 in Ocean City, Md.
January 12, 2024

Around Thanksgiving of 2022, I wrote a column about how, with more than a month to go, it was already a certainty that traffic fatalities in Delaware were going to surpass the total of 139 in 2021. I also predicted the record of 165, set in 1988, probably wouldn’t be broken. Unfortunately, I was right and wrong, as there ended up being 165.

The state keeps pretty good statistics on traffic data, which shows that there’s a spike in the number of traffic fatalities every few years, but the number typically drops back down. I was curious if that would happen in 2023. The good news is that it did. According to the Office of Highway Safety, there were 138 traffic fatalities in 2023.

The discouraging news is that there’s not a good explanation as to why it spiked in 2022 or dropped back down in 2023.

“While there is no single reason attributed to the increase in fatalities, the Office of Highway Safety notes that distracted driving, reckless driving, impaired driving and pedestrian safety were among the primary contributing factors of traffic fatalities,” said OHS spokesman Jason Coleman.

Following 2022, OHS conducted several outreach and educational events throughout the state, and hosted a series of town hall meetings in each county to gather feedback from community members.

“This feedback will help OHS plan its future initiatives and continue to be engaging, relevant and motivational,” said Coleman. “OHS will continue to work closely with our traffic safety partners and state/local law enforcement to provide additional enforcement, distribute educational materials and raise awareness to keep the number of fatalities down."

The state’s statistics also show a significant jump in fatalities over a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They have remained generally steady since then. Coleman said many factors could have contributed to the root cause of the increase five decades ago, but OHS doesn’t have specific data for this period.

As we move further into 2024, here's hoping we’re not in the middle of another statistical increase and that the number of fatalities in 2022 was primarily related to people forgetting how to drive while they were hunkered down through the COVID pandemic. 

Update on horseshoe crab tagging program

In my last column, I wrote about finding a tag from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Horseshoe Crab Cooperative Tagging Program lying in the sand at 3R’s Beach. The program, which began in May 1999, encourages people who find a tag to report the information on the tag so scientists and biologists can collect data.

Well, I’ve already gotten the information back from the office in Annapolis, Md., and according to the Certificate of Participation I received, the tag I found was attached to a horseshoe crab Oct. 14, 2019, in Ocean City, Md. The tagging agency was Wako Chemicals, a company that manufactures and sells a variety of specialty and laboratory chemicals in association with FujiFilm. The package I received also included printouts of information on horseshoe crabs and shorebirds, and a small pewter pendant of a horseshoe crab. 

Joke of the Week

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This week, it’s worth one free joke. Jeff sent in this joke and it only makes sense in association with the photo that he included. It’s a picture of wild horses blocking the drive-on entrance at Assateague Island. As always, send jokes to

Person looking to drive on the beach: Permission to enter?

Wild horse standing at the gate: Neeeeeeiiiiiiigh.


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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