Auto Accident Deaths Continued to Decline in First Quarter of 2024: NHTSA Reports

Federal highway safety officials attribute the reduction in fatal car accidents to a nearly $2 billion initiative aimed at enhancing roadway safety.

A new report released by federal highway safety officials highlights how there has been a drop in auto accident deaths during the first few months of 2024, continuing a steady decline that has been seen since a two-year surge in fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a report detailing early projections for traffic fatalities in 2024, which shows that there has been a 3.2% decline in deaths linked to auto accidents during the first three months of this year, compared to the 8,935 estimated deaths during the same period in 2023.

This new data represents the eighth consecutive quarterly decline in auto accident deaths, adding to a trend that began in the second quarter on 2022. A similar decrease was seen last year in the NHTSA’s projections for 2023, which demonstrated a more than 3% decline in deaths stemming from traffic accidents over the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022.

Earlier this month, another report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) indicated pedestrian traffic deaths also declined in the first half of 2023, representing a 4% decrease from the previous year. However, this number is still 14% higher than in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NHTSA’s most recent report found that, despite the total miles traveled increasing by 0.6% over the past year, the total number of auto accident fatalities still managed to decrease in 2024. The estimated fatality rate for the first quarter of this year dropped to 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a decline from the projected rate of 1.18 deaths for the same period in 2023.

According to NHTSA estimates, fatalities fell in 30 states and Puerto Rico during the first quarter of 2024, while 19 states and the District of Columbia saw increases compared to the same period in 2023. One state’s fatality count remained unchanged.

Strategic Measures to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its 2024 Progress Report, commemorating two years since the initial National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS) was unveiled on January 27, 2022. The Department claims widespread adoption of the safety strategy is crucial for reducing U.S. traffic fatalities, and the NHTSA credits the strategy with much of the recent progress.

According to the NHTSA, some of the most significant actions taken in 2023 include the U.S. Department of Transportation awarding $1.7 billion to improve roadway safety, benefiting over 1,000 communities and advancing automatic emergency braking technologies and proposed new impaired-driving prevention standards.

The NRSS focuses on a comprehensive approach that integrates multiple layers of protection to enhance overall road safety. This strategy includes creating safer roads through improved infrastructure design, promoting safer behavior among road users, ensuring that vehicles are equipped with the latest safety technologies, managing speeds to prevent accidents, and providing superior post-crash care to reduce fatalities and serious injuries. By addressing each of these elements, the NRSS aims to create a more robust and resilient transportation system that protects all road users.

“We’re encouraged to see traffic fatalities continue to decline, but more work must be done to reduce these preventable tragedies on our roads,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said in the press release. “NHTSA is working diligently to save lives and ensure our roads are safe for everyone inside and outside of vehicles.”

However, despite the steady decline in auto accident deaths, the report indicates issues persist. A sharp decline in traffic enforcement nationwide since 2020 has reportedly led to an increase in dangerous driving behaviors, including speeding, impaired driving, and other activities that raise risks for pedestrians and other drivers on U.S. roadways.

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