Motor Vehicle Accidents Resulted in 36K Deaths in 2019, Representing Lowest Rate Since 2014

Federal highway safety officials indicate the rate of motor vehicle accidents resulting in death decreased last year for the third consecutive year, with improvements cutting across several major traffic safety categories, including pedestrians, cyclists and impaired driving.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the 2019 traffic fatality data on December 18, highlighting a 2% decrease in all deaths when compared to 2018, despite the average vehicle miles traveled increasing.

The report marks the third consecutive annual decline and the lowest fatality rate recorded since 2014. According to the report, a total of 36,096 motor vehicle related deaths were recorded in 2019, which is down 739 fatalities when compared to the 36,835 fatalities in 2018.

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Specifically, officials indicate passenger vehicle occupant fatalities decreased by 2.8%, pedestrian fatalities decreased by 2.7%, cyclist fatalities dropped 2.9% and urban fatalities decreased by 4%. One of the most notable statistics was the reduction in alcohol impaired driving fatalities, which dropped by 5.3%, reaching the lowest percentage recorded since 1982.

Geographically, officials found only eight states where traffic fatalities increased at a rate higher than 5%, which included Wyoming (32%), Delaware (19%), Maine (15%), Tennessee (9%), Nebraska (8%), New Mexico (8%), Ohio (8%) and Iowa (5.3%). However, most states reported reductions in fatalities.

The largest decreases were recorded in the Northeast region, including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Adversely, the data revealed a projected increase in the proportion of fatalities occurring in rural areas, specifically among young adult drivers between 16 and 24 years of age, and for drivers and passengers traveling in vehicles 10 years or older.

Motor vehicle accidents have become the leading cause of death for teens between the age of 15 and 18 years in the United States, ahead of all other types of injury, disease or violence. According to the NHTSA, an estimated 99,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 years are injured every year in car crashes, while nearly 2,000 young drivers are involved in fatal vehicle collisions.

Distracted driving, which includes texting while driving, has become such as widespread epidemic across the United States that the NHTSA launches a National Teen Driver Safety Week campaign annually to encourage parents and guardians to have conversation with their teenage children about the dangers associated with distracted driving. The campaign stresses the importance of distracted driving risk factors such as cell phone use and extra passengers which can consume the attention of a new driver who is already at a statistically higher rate of a crash.

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found supervised practice and safe driving instruction during the learner period could have a direct impact on the reduction in teenage automobile crashes, indicating the supervision and reinforcement of safe driving habits lowers risky driving behavior among novice drivers.

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