Traffic Fatalities Continued to Decline in First Half of Year

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Fatalities on U.S. roadways appear to continue to be on the decline for the fifth straight quarter, according to early estimates of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2023, released Sept. 28 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA estimated 19,515 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, representing a decrease of about 3.3% as compared to 20,190 fatalities in the first half of 2022. Fatalities declined in both the first and second quarters of 2023.

Continuing the trend identified in the first quarter estimates released in June, preliminary data shows vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2023 increased by about 35.1 billion miles, roughly 2.3% higher than the same time last year. More miles driven combined with fewer traffic deaths resulted in a fatality rate of 1.24 fatalities per 100 million VMT, down from the projected rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first half of 2023.

"After spiking during the pandemic, traffic deaths are continuing to slowly come down---but we still have a long way to go,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Safety has always been the core mission of this department, and thanks to President Biden, we are delivering unprecedented resources to communities across the country to make their streets safer.” 

“While we are encouraged to see traffic fatalities continue to decline from the height of the pandemic, there’s still significantly more work to be done,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said. “NHTSA is addressing traffic safety in many ways, including new rulemakings for lifesaving vehicle technologies and increased Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for state highway safety offices. We will continue to work with our safety partners to meet the collective goal of zero fatalities.”

NHTSA estimates a decrease in fatalities in 29 states, while 21 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., are projected to have experienced increases.

NHTSA has announced several safety initiatives aimed at reducing traffic deaths, including proposed rulemakings to require automatic emergency braking systems in passenger cars, light trucks and heavy vehicles. The agency has also published a proposed rule for seat belt warning systems and issued an order to collect more data about crashes that occur when automated driving systems and ADAS are engaged.

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