Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate the recent upward trend in motor vehicle deaths has continued its leveling off, with the number of fatalities in the first six months of 2018 dipping just slightly – less than 0.5 percent – from six-month 2017 estimates. Approximately 18,720 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June, compared to the Council’s revised estimate of 18,770 during the same period last year. An additional 2.1 million people are estimated to have sustained serious crash-related injuries during the first six months of 2018 – a 1 percent drop from 2017 six-month projections.
The small drop is not so much an indication of progress as much as a stabilization of the steepest two-year increase in over 50 years, which occurred between 2014 and 2016. If the preliminary 2018 estimate holds, the U.S. could see its third straight year with about 40,000 roadway deaths.
The Labor Day holiday weekend estimates are also in line with last year’s trend. NSC estimates 420 people will be killed during the three-day weekend, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3.
“When it comes to this leading cause of accidental death, we aren’t making progress – we’re treading water,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council. “We cannot accept 18,000 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 has remained stable, the Council’s early estimates indicate some states have seen progress. In the first half of this year, several states have experienced at least a 10 percent drop in motor vehicle deaths including Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan and New York. A sample of states with increases through the first six months include California (3 percent), Florida (7 percent), Oregon (9 percent) and Texas (3 percent).
The National Safety Council 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.
Unlike the larger increases in motor vehicle deaths that occurred at the height of the economic recovery, cumulative monthly miles driven have increased only 0.3 percent from 2017 through May of this year. That slowdown in the rate of motor vehicle travel has affected the fatality trends through the first six months of 2018.
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. Visit nsc.org for defensive driving tips.
- Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids. If you feel different, you drive different. 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.
- Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to get involved.