After a three-year uptick in motor vehicle fatalities, the National Safety Council (NSC)'s latest analysis now indicates that trend could be ebbing.
Preliminary estimates in the first six months of 2019 shows deaths dropping 3% compared to the same six-month period in 2018. An estimated 18,580 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June of this year, compared to NSC's revised estimate of 19,060 during the same period last year.
“While the numbers indicate a slight improvement, the rate of deaths remains stagnant, and 18,580 deaths so far this year is unacceptable,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO, in a statement. “We cannot accept death as the price of mobility. We urge all drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively.”
An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018 – a 1% drop from 2018 six-month projections.
The estimate caps a three-year period in which roadway deaths topped 40,000 each year for the first time since the mid-2000s. A total of 118,315 people died on the roadways between 2015 and 2017, and an estimated 40,000 additional people perished last year. However, drivers still face the same fatality risk this year as they did when fatalities were eclipsing 40,000 annually, because the estimated annual rate of deaths per miles driven has remained stable. NSC estimates 1.2 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, unchanged from 2018 rates.
NSC's early figures indicate significant progress in some states. In the first half of this year, several states have experienced at least a 10% drop in motor vehicle deaths, including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah. A sample of states with increases through the first six months include Kentucky (6%), Hawaii (20%), Oregon (6%) and New Mexico (15%). A complete list of state results is available here.
To help ensure safer roads, the organization urges motorists to:
- Practice defensive driving; buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions
- Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from cannabis and opioids; visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis
- Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits; visit DriveitHOME.org for resources
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them; visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information
- Fix recalls immediately; visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall
- Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways; the NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws
- Get involved in the Road to Zero Coalition, a group of more than 900 organizations across the country focused on eliminating roadway deaths by 2050; visit nsc.org/roadtozero to join
The organization has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so that deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.