After increasing for two years, fatalities on U.S. roads appear to be finally going down. That's according to a new report on deaths in 2017 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2017, NHTSA data shows 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. — down 1.8 percent from 2016, when 37,806 people lost their lives on the road. The decline comes despite people driving more; NHTSA says vehicle miles traveled increased by 1.2 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Also of note in the 2017 report, pedestrian fatalities declined by 1.7 percent, the first dip since 2013. Where the deaths occurred has also shifted: For the second year in a row, NHTSA says more road deaths happened in urban areas than rural areas. And how deaths are occurring is also changing: Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased by 1.1 percent and speeding-related fatalities are down 5.6 percent.
Fatalities decreased in almost all segments of the population, with the exception of crashes involving SUVs and large (primarily commercial) trucks, which increased 3.0 percent and 9.0 percent respectively. A few specifics include:
- Passenger-car occupant deaths decreasing 1.1 percent
- Van occupant deaths decreasing 5.8 percent.
- Pickup truck occupant deaths decreasing 4.5 percent
- Motorcyclist deaths decreasing 3.1 percent
- Bicyclist deaths decreasing 8.1 percent
There's even more good news. Preliminary estimates for the first six months of 2018 appear to show that this downward trend will continue. So far, it's estimated that 17,120 people have died in motor vehicle crashes during the first half of 2018. NHTSA uses a statistical projection model to estimate that when full 2018 numbers are in, deaths could fall 3.1 percent compared with 2017 levels.
While the outlook is improving, NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi R. King cautions that much work remains.
"Dangerous actions such as speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence are still putting many Americans, ther families and those they share the road with at risk," King said in a statement. "Additionally, we must address the emerging trend of drug-impaired driving to ensure we are reducing traffic fatalities and keeping our roadways safe for the traveling public."
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