US Traffic Deaths Above 40,000 for Third Year: Sharp Swings From State to State

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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

State 2018 2017 YoY
TOTAL U.S. 40,000 40,231 -1%
Alabama 948 914 4%
Alaska 80 77 4%
Arizona 1,013 970 4%
Arkansas 489 491 < 0.5%
California 3,651 3,564 2%
Colorado 624 630 -1%
Connecticut 297 284 5%
Delaware 111 119 -7%
Dist. of Columbia 34 30 13%
Florida 3,325 3,087 8%
Georgia 1,497 1,528 -2%
Hawaii 117 107 9%
Idaho 233 242 -4%
Illinois 1,048 1,080 -3%
Indiana 859 910 -6%
Iowa 319 331 -4%
Kansas 404 462 -13%
Kentucky 721 775 -7%
Louisiana 777 792 -2%
Maine 127 171 -26%
Maryland 487 525 -7%
Massachusetts 357 360 -1%
Michigan 962 1,041 -8%
Minnesota 382 358 7%
Mississippi 633 685 -8%
Missouri 917 932 -2%
Montana 182 186 -2%
Nebraska 230 226 2%
Nevada 331 305 9%
New Hampshire 146 102 43%
New Jersey 565 638 -11%
New Mexico 387 375 3%
New York 873 928 -6%
North Carolina 1,457 1,404 4%
North Dakota 104 113 -8%
Ohio 1,071 1,179 -9%
Oklahoma 627 646 -3%
Oregon 468 436 7%
Pennsylvania 1,244 1,141 9%
Rhode Island 59 84 -30%
South Carolina 1,034 983 5%
South Dakota 129 132 -2%
Tennessee 1,047 1,040 1%
Texas 3,597 3,721 -3%
Utah 264 272 -3%
Vermont 68 68 0%
Virginia 817 839 -3%
Washington 541 554 -2%
West Virginia 295 303 -3%
Wisconsin 577 603 -4%
Wyoming 111 123 -10%

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.