WASHINGTON, D.C. – Early estimates point to a decline in U.S. traffic fatalities in 2019 except in crashes involving trucks, according to preliminary estimates released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The agency said Tuesday the estimates suggest a continuing decline in overall traffic-related deaths. Final numbers will be released later this year.
Deaths in crashes involving at least one large truck are projected to increase by 1%. The agency reported in October that fatalities involving large trucks had risen by 0.8% to 885 in 2018 from 878 in 2017.
“Safety is our top priority so this report that traffic fatalities appear to have decreased again for the third year is great news,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
The statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2019 shows that an estimated 36,120 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, NHTSA said.
This represents an estimated decrease of about 440 (down 1.2%) from the reported 36,560 fatalities in 2018, even though Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 0.9%.
“As a result, the fatality rate for 2019 was 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT, down from 1.13 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2018,” the agency said.
“If these estimates are reflected in the final data, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT would be the second lowest since NHTSA started recording fatal crash data.”
Last year NHTSA established an intermodal truck and bus working group that focuses on increasing safety and reducing truck and bus-related crashes.
The agency said it has since accelerated efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.
In February, it released $562 million in grants for highway safety programs. The grants were issued to help state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their traffic safety efforts to combat risky driving behaviors.
“The fatality counts for 2018 and 2019 and the ensuing percentage change from 2018 to 2019 will be further revised as the final file for 2018 and the annual reporting file for 2019 become available later this year,” the agency said.
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