The National Safety Council (NSC) announced that, for the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. has experienced three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, according to preliminary estimates released Feb. 13. In 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes – a 1 percent decline from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths). About 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year – also a 1% decrease over 2017.
Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., had at least a 5.8 percent spike in fatalities, according to NSC estimates. Five states experienced declines of more than 9.4 percent: Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming.
The NSC’s preliminary estimate signals a leveling off after years of consecutive rises. Last year’s estimated 40,000 deaths is 14 percent higher than four years ago. Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high. The NSC’s estimates do not reveal causation; however, 2017 final data show spikes in deaths among pedestrians, while distraction continues to be involved in 8 percent of crashes, and drowsy driving in an additional 2 percent.
“Forty-thousand deaths is unacceptable,” said Nicholas Smith, interim president and CEO of NSC. “We cannot afford to tread water any more. 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.”