According to information from the National Safety Council (NSC), traffic deaths were down very slightly in 2018 but were above 40,000 for the third straight year. Another 4.5 million people were seriously hurt in car crashes.
The 40,000 figure is a preliminary number, the NSC reports. It was 1% less than 40,231 deaths in 2017 and the 40,327 in 2016. The 40,000 level is well above what it had been in years previous to 2018. NSC researchers reported, “Discouragingly, last year’s estimated 40,000 deaths are 14% higher than four years ago. Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high.” Pedestrian deaths were among the causes if final 2017 numbers are any indication. And distracted driving was a major factor, up 8% in the final number for 2017.
The NSC has posted traffic death figures for over 100 years. It uses numbers it collects each month from all 50 states from the National Center for Health Statistics. Numbers include road deaths and those in driveways and parking lots.
The death rate by state varied considerably. Fatalities increased by at least 5.8% in Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. There were declines of more than 9.4% in Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming. In several states, the swing was even larger. Traffic deaths in the District of Columbia were up 13% to 34 people. Deaths rose 43% in New Hampshire to 146. But they decreased 13% in Kansas to 404, while the drop in Maine was 26% to 127. The figure fell 30% in Rhode Island to 59 and dropped 11% in New Jersey to 565.
Nicholas Smith, interim president and CEO of NSC, said:
Forty-thousand deaths is unacceptable. We cannot afford to tread water anymore. We know what works, but we 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.
The NSC suggested several things drivers could do to help cut the number. People should drive defensively, which means wearing seatbelts, having a designated driver who is sober and watching for fatigue. Additionally, people should be aware that certain drugs, particularly prescription opioids, can impair judgment and reactions. Driving by teens should be carefully monitored as well. People ought to understand and use all the safety features of their cars. Finally, people should get all carmaker recalls fixed immediately.
Preliminary motor vehicle annual fatality estimates
|Dist. of Columbia||34||30||13%|
Note: Deaths are reported by state traffic authorities. ALL FIGURES ARE PRELIMINARY. To ensure proper comparisons, 2017 figures are preliminary figures covering the same reporting period as those for 2018. The totals for 2017 are from the National Center for Health Statistics.