Motor-Vehicle Deaths Decrease 4% in 2023 Despite Higher Mileage

The estimated mileage death rate also dropped by 6.2% compared to 2022, to 1.36 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.


In a year when Americans hit the road more than the last, the National Safety Council (NSC) has reported a counterintuitive trend: a significant decrease in motor-vehicle deaths in 2023.

Despite a 2.1% increase in mileage from 2022, fatalities dropped by 4%, totaling 44,450 deaths in 2023, down from 46,270 the previous year. This decline in deaths comes alongside a decrease in the estimated mileage death rate, which fell to 1.36 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, marking a 6.2% decrease from 2022 and a notable 9.3% drop compared to 2021.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports the official mortality estimates for the U.S. and is used as a comparison to judge the accuracy of NSC preliminary estimates. The publication of NCHS final mortality estimates generally lags about one year or more. The most recent NCHS final estimate shows 46,980 deaths occurring in 2021. This compares to the NSC initial estimate of 46,020, with a difference of 2%.

State-specific data reveal a contrast across the country. Twelve states experienced a decrease in motor-vehicle deaths by 10% or more, with Alaska leading the way at a 31% reduction. Meanwhile, seven states and Washington, D.C., saw increases of 10% or more, with D.C. witnessing a 42% surge in fatalities.

The NSC's methodology for calculating these estimates involves collecting data from all 50 states and D.C., relying on state Department of Transportation offices and data reporters who also contribute to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). This comprehensive approach ensures the NSC's estimates are both timely and reflective of trends across the nation.

The reduction in motor-vehicle deaths, despite an increase in overall mileage, may reflect the impact of safer vehicle technologies, improved road safety measures, or changes in driver behavior. However, the increase in fatalities in certain states highlights the ongoing challenges in achieving nationwide road safety improvements.

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