The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that traffic fatalities fell 2% in 2019, and early 2020 estimates show another 2% decline, though vehicle miles traveled this year dropped 16.6% year-over-year.
There were 36,096 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019, representing a third straight year of declines. It also represents a decrease of 739 from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018, even though vehicle miles traveled increased by nearly 1%.
Fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories in 2019:
- Passenger vehicle occupants were down 2.8%.
- Motorcyclists were down 0.5%.
- Pedestrians were down 2.7%
- Cyclists were down 2.9%.
Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck showed relatively no change, decreasing from 5,006 in 2018 to 5,005 in 2019. Large trucks include both commercial and non-commercial trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds.
Meanwhile, preliminary fatality estimates for the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 public health emergency, showed a continued decline in overall traffic fatalities.
Data indicates that an estimated 8,870 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the second quarter of 2020, a decrease of about 3.3% compared to the second quarter of 2019, which translates into 302 fewer fatalities as compared to the same period in 2019.
However, at the same time the total traffic volume decreased by more than 16% in the first six months of 2020. Because traffic volumes decreased more significantly than did the number of fatal crashes, the traffic fatality rate per 100 million VMT is projected to increase to 1.25 in the first half of 2020, up from 1.06 in the same period in 2019.
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