U.S. Traffic Deaths Down in 2017 But Still Pegged Near 10-Year High

© Provided by Car and Driver   Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads remain at 10-year highs despite a steady decline in death rates and an all-time record of travel mileage.

By Clifford Atiyeh, Car and Driver

Traffic fatalities on U.S. roads have hardly budged from a 10-year high, according to new statistics issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)-despite a steady decline in death rates and an all-time record of travel mileage.

According to the latest data, 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, a 2 percent decline from 2016 yet just hundreds of lives shy of the 37,423 who died in 2008. The numbers capture all reported fatalities involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Fewer pedestrians died in 2017, the first such decline in five years, at 6080 total. Among all vehicle types, crashes involving large trucks resulted in the only increase in occupant deaths, at 16 percent more than in 2016. In total, 841 people died in large trucks, compared with 10,188 in light trucks. More than 5100 motorcyclists died last year. As in previous years, that was more than double the number of motorcyclists who died 20 years ago. Similar to prior years, crashes involving alcohol made up 29 percent of all fatalities in 2017.

Yet there is some promise to these sobering statistics when factoring the staggering number of miles Americans traveled in 2017-and the sheer numbers of vehicles on those roads. Based on mileage estimates from every registered vehicle, Americans drove more than 3.21 trillion miles, a record surpassing 2016's 3.17 trillion. That roughly equates to one person dying every 100 million miles (the actual number was 1.16).


U.S. Roads Still among World's Safest

While death rates over the past decade have been flat, they've consistently trended downward since the 1960s and from record annual deaths in the 1970s. In 1975, for example, more than three people died per 100 million miles. For a country of more than 320 million people and 250 million vehicles, U.S. roads are still among the safest in the world by population. Seatbelt use was also unchanged; it was estimated at 90 percent in 2017.

Recent upticks in traffic deaths since the last recession have been alarming. While annual traffic fatalities hovered above 40,000 throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, in 2008 they dipped to their lowest level since 1961. Deaths continued to decrease and stabilize around 32,000 per year until 2015, when they increased by 8 percent, and again in 2016 by 7 percent. NHTSA estimates 17,120 people died through the first half of 2018, a 3 percent decline compared against the same estimates for 2017. For now, it's too early to tell if traffic deaths will continue to drop, even slightly.

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Autos - U.S. Daily News: U.S. Traffic Deaths Down in 2017 But Still Pegged Near 10-Year High
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