Recently, the United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a preview of 2019 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and preliminary estimates for the first half of 2020 which show a continued annual decline in traffic deaths in comparison to prior years. In 2019, 36,096 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents on United States roadways. This represents a 2% decrease from the reported 36,835 fatalities in 2018. This marks the third consecutive year that motor vehicle fatalities declined.
In 2019, fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories including passenger vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and pedalcyclists. Little change was seen in the number of fatal crashes involving at least one large truck, which includes both commercial and non-commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds. Preliminary fatality estimates for the first half of 2020 showed a 3.3% decline in overall traffic fatalities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to the second quarter of 2019.
There has been a general downward trend in traffic fatalities over the past 40 years. NHTSA points to vehicle improvements such as air bags and electronic stability control as well as safety programs aimed at increasing seat belt usage and reducing impaired driving for the positive trend. However, as more people return to work following prolonged periods of working from home due to COVID-19, NHTSA anticipates that the increase in traffic volume will lead to an increase in the number of fatal traffic accidents. NHTSA urges drivers to remain vigilant and engage in distracted-free driving.