Car Accident Deaths are Declining in the United States

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On May 5, 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report containing early estimates for 2019 traffic fatality statistics. The agency, which seeks to report and reduce traffic fatalities across the country, stated that traffic-related deaths decreased in 2019 for the third consecutive year. The report released by the NHTSA also provides insight into motor vehicle trends across the country.

Details of the 2019 NHTSA Projection

Based on a statistical projection, the NHTSA estimated that 36,120 individuals died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019. While the final number may change as more data is reported, it is estimated that traffic fatalities in 2019 decreased by 1.2 percent compared to the previous year and by 3.6 percent since 2016.

“Traffic fatalities decreased in 2019 despite Americans driving more overall,” said Attorney Alan Hamilton of Shiver Hamilton. “Data from the Federal Highway Administration suggests that Americans collectively drove 28.8 billion more miles in 2019 when compared to the previous year.”

Additionally, the NHTSA predicted that the 2019 traffic fatality rate was 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles travelled (VMT). This number is slightly decreased from 1.13 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2018.

Where are Fatalities Occurring?

2019 traffic fatality rates increased or decreased at varying rates across the country. Of the 10 geographical regions created by the NHTSA, 8 experienced a decrease in traffic fatalities. This includes two regions encompassing the Northeast, where traffic fatalities decreased at an average of 7 percent when compared to 2018. While in general traffic fatalities decreased across the country, some regions saw an increase or experienced no significant change. This includes Region 4, which consists of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee. Region 4 is projected to have traffic-related fatalities increase by 2 percent.

Currently, the NHTSA has not released projected fatality rates on specific types of drivers or passengers for 2019. However, data already entered into the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) suggests that certain groups of motor vehicle operators may experience differing fatality rates. Fatalities involving pedestrians and motorcyclists decreased at a lesser rate than car drivers overall. Similarly, fatalities involving drivers over the age of 65 and large truck accidents increase when compared to 2018’s rates.

When will the Final 2019 Report Become Available?

The NHTSA is still receiving data from sources to gain a comprehensive understanding of traffic fatalities for 2019. As a result, the 2019 NHTSA projections and findings may change as more data is reported. The NHTSA has stated that it is too early to speculate why fatality rates may have decreased. The final report will likely become available in late fall 2020.

Data from Previous Years

Traffic fatalities averaged between 32,000 and 34,000 from 2008 to 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, traffic fatalities increased over 8 percent to 35,484 reported deaths. The following year, fatalities increased an additional 6 percent to nearly 38,000 recorded deaths. The highest year for traffic-related deaths was in 2007, where over 41,000 fatalities were recorded. However, while the number of traffic fatalities is expected to fall for the third consecutive year, the number of traffic fatalities for 2019 is still high overall.

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