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U.S. Experiences Three Straight Years of 40,000 Motor Vehicle Deaths

Despite the dismal figure, the estimated number of people who lost their lives has slightly declined.

Roadway deaths in the United States are slowly declining despite hitting 40,000 the last three years, according the National Safety Council (NSC),

Preliminary estimates from the NSC show that in 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes, down 1% from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths).

“Forty-thousand deaths is simply unacceptable,” said Nick Smith, NSC interim president and CEO. “We cannot afford to tread water anymore. We know what works, but need to demonstrate the commitment to implementing the solutions. Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements and creating a culture of safer driving.”

Approximately 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year – also a 1% over 2017 figures.

Seven states – Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania – as well as Washington D.C. had at least a 5.8% spike in fatalities. Five states experienced declines of more than 9.4%: Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

The new figures signal a leveling off after years of consecutive rises. However, 2018’s preliminary estimates still are 14% higher than four years ago.

Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high, the NSC stated.

To help ensure safer roads, NSC 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 prescription opioids. 
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. 
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them.
  • Fix recalls immediately. 
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. 
  • Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities. 


The NSC has issued traffic fatality estimates since 1921. Additional information can be found on the organization's website.

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