ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — While the number of people killed on Illinois roads dipped in 2022 compared to 2021, experts said that improvements are needed as deaths are still above pre-pandemic levels.

In 2022, 1,280 people lost their lives on Illinois roads compared to 1,334 in 2021, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. That is a 4% decrease.

However, experts said that these numbers are not a meaningful decrease.

“The road death toll in Illinois went up dramatically during the pandemic,” said Kavi Bhalla, a professor at the University of Chicago who researches road safety. “Fatalities have declined very slightly this year. It’s not a cause to celebrate.”

Prior to the pandemic, Illinois saw 1,009 traffic fatalities in 2019 and 1,035 deaths in 2018. That number jumped to 1,194 in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the slight decrease in deaths in 2022 in encouraging, according to Dave Simmons, executive director of Ride Illinois, he said that “the number of people dying on our nation’s roads is still incredibly high.

“Fewer people being injured or killed on Illinois roads is notable, but not cause for celebration,” Simmons said. He added that the decline in deaths could be linked to the implementation of programs like Roads for All and Safe Streets.

Illinois was not the only Midwest state to see a decrease in traffic fatalities last year. Ohio saw a decline of 5.6% while Wisconsin had a 2.9% decrease. Minnesota’s was the largest decline at 6.1% while Michigan had the smallest at 0.3%.

Overall, the Great Lakes region had a decrease of 3% in traffic fatalities.

Across the country, an estimated 42,795 were killed in car crashes in 2022. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that even though deaths are declining, the U.S. is still facing a “national crisis” of traffic deaths.