November 16, 2018
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Photo: NTSB.

Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate the recent upward trend in motor vehicle deaths is leveling off, with the number of fatalities in the first six months of 2018 dipping slightly – less than 0.5 percent – compared to the first six months of 2017 even as vehicle miles traveled continues to increase.

The group said on Aug. 22 that approximately 18,720 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June this year, compared to NSC’s revised estimate of 18,770 during the same period last year, and if those preliminary 2018 estimates hold, the United States could see its third straight year with about 40,000 roadway deaths, it said.

Yet the most recent roadway travel data estimates released by the Federal Highway Administration show that U.S. drivers accrued more than 1.58 trillion vehicle-miles travelled in the first half of 2018, an increase of 0.3 percent or 5.2 billion miles over the same period a year ago.

Photo: Utah DOT

An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018, according to NSC’s statement – a 1 percent drop from the first six months of 2017.

That small drop is not so much an indication of progress as much as a stabilization of the increase that occurred between 2014 and 2016; the steepest two-year increase in over half a century, noted Ken Kolosh, NSC’s manager of statistics.

“When it comes to this leading cause of accidental death, we aren’t making progress – we’re treading water,” he said. “We cannot accept more than 18,700 deaths as the price of mobility. We hope these numbers remind drivers to slow down, buckle up, pay attention and drive defensively so we can get on the road to zero deaths.”

While the national trend in highway deaths is leveling off, NSC’s estimates indicate they are declining in some states. In the first half of this year, several states experienced at least a 10 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths, including: Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and New York.

Meanwhile, increases in highway fatalities are occurring in other states, including: California (up 3 percent), Florida (up 7 percent), Oregon (up 9 percent) and Texas (up 3 percent).

editor@aashto.org

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