NHTSA data shows decline in annual traffic deaths in 2019

Fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories in 2019

October 19, 2020 / 1 minute read
traffic fatality rates

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released data showing a decrease in traffic deaths nationwide during 2019 as compared to 2018.

According to the agency, there were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. This represents a decrease of 739 (down 2%) from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018, even though vehicle miles traveled increased by nearly 1%. As a result, the fatality rate for 2019 was 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT—the lowest rate since 2014, down from 1.14 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2018.  

Fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories in 2019: passenger vehicle occupants (down 2.8%); motorcyclists (down 0.5%); pedestrians (down 2.7%); and pedal cyclists (down 2.9%).

NHTSA also released preliminary fatality estimates for the first half of 2020. The second quarter of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, showed a continued decline in overall traffic fatalities. The data indicate that an estimated 8,870 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the second quarter of 2020, a decrease of about 3.3% compared to the second quarter of 2019, which translates into 302 fewer fatalities as compared to the same period in 2019.

At the same time, at the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the total traffic volume decreased by more than 16% in the first six months of 2020. Because traffic volumes decreased more significantly than did the number of fatal crashes, the traffic fatality rate per 100 million VMT is projected to increase to 1.25 in the first half of 2020, up from 1.06 in the same period in 2019.

“Road safety is always our top priority, and while we are encouraged by today’s reports showing a continued decline in total fatalities in 2019 and into the first half of 2020, we are concerned by the trend since April showing an increased fatality rate,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we should be watching ourselves for safe driving practices and encouraging others to do the same. It’s irresponsible and illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, taking risks not only with one’s own life, but with the lives of others.” 

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SOURCE: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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