Early data suggests traffic deaths dropped last year

Preliminary data released last week from the National Safety Council shows that serious injuries and fatalities on roads in America may have dropped for the third straight year.

According to preliminary estimates, about 38,800 people died in fatal crashes in 2019, which is a 2% drop from 2018 and a 4% drop from 2017. The NSC said about 4.4 million people were injured in crashes last year, which is also a 2% drop from 2018.

“Thirty-eight thousand deaths is still unacceptable, even if it is fewer than in years past,” NSC president and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a statement.

The agency cited newer, more effective safety systems for cars such as automatic emergency braking and active lane control for the drop in deaths. The NSC also said lowering legal limits for alcohol consumption before driving may help curb fatal crashes.

“We are encouraged by the actions so many organizations are taking to reduce deaths, and we applaud legislation that curtails common crash causes such as impairment, distraction and speed. But as a nation, we still need to demonstrate better commitment to saving lives,” Martin said.

The NSC said six states and DC had the largest drops in deaths since 2018: Alaska (16%), Connecticut (14%), District of Columbia (21%), Nevada (14%), New Hampshire (30%), South Dakota (21%), and Vermont (31%).

Six states last year had an increase in fatal crashes compared to 2018: Delaware (20%), Maine (35%), Nebraska (8%), Tennessee (10%), Ohio (8%), and Wyoming (32%).

The NSC noted that crashes involving pedestrians continued to rise, while distracted drivers were responsible for roughly 8% of the serious crashes.

The report didn’t estimate how many miles drivers covered in 2019, although it’s likely to be higher than previous years. In 2018, the Federal Highway Administration estimated that travelers in the U.S. drove more than 3.2 trillion miles, which was a record, and a 12.2-billion-mile increase from 2017 totals.

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