Traffic fatalities drop for third straight year in 2019, NHTSA data shows

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased to the lowest percentage since 1982

December 23, 2020 / 1 minute read
road traffic safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) recently released annual traffic fatality data for 2019 shows traffic deaths decreased nationwide last year compared to 2018. 

There were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. The NHTSA report says this is the third consecutive year in which traffic fatalities have declined after reaching a recent high of 37,806 in 2016. The agency also said alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased to the lowest percentage since 1982, when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data.

This 2019 fatality numbers represent a decrease of 739 (down 2%) from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018, even though vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 0.8%. As a result, the fatality rate for 2019 was 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT—the lowest rate since 2014, and down from 1.14 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2018.  

“We are encouraged by the 2019 FARS data, which shows that fewer lives were lost on our nation’s roads than the year before, a trend for three years now even while economic growth was increasing,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said in a statement. “We saw notable reductions in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, as well as fewer lives lost in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. If we’re to keep building on these numbers, everyone needs to do their part by driving sober, wearing their seat belts, avoiding speeding and distractions, and sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists.”

Fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories in 2019 compared to 2018, including:

  • Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities (630 fewer fatalities, 2.8% decrease)
  • Pedestrian fatalities (169 fewer fatalities, 2.7% decrease)
  • Pedal-cyclist fatalities (25 fewer fatalities, 2.9% decrease)
  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (568 fewer fatalities, 5.3% decrease)
  • Urban fatalities (813 fewer fatalities, 4% decrease)

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SOURCE: NHTSA

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