Newer Cars with Safety Features Cited for Reduction in Highway Crash Deaths

October 23, 2019

Highway crash data from 2018 shows that overall fatalities from vehicle accidents in the U.S. declined 2.4%, marking the second year in a row with a reduction in deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 2018 shows that highway fatalities decreased in 2018 with 913 fewer fatalities, down to 36,560 people from 37,473 people in 2017. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also decreased by 3.4 percent (from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018), the lowest fatality rate since 2014.

Officials attributed the decline in part to safety features found on newer vehicles on the road.

“New vehicles are safer than older ones and when crashes occur, more new vehicles are equipped with advanced technologies that prevent or reduce the severity of crashes,” NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens said.

In addition to the 2018 numbers, NHTSA also released initial estimates for the first half of 2019, which suggest that this overall positive trend may be continuing. The estimated number of fatalities in the first half of 2019 declined by 3.4 percent from the same period in 2018, with 589 fewer fatalities over that time. That translates to an estimated first-half 2019 fatality rate of 1.06, the lowest first-half level since 2015. The estimates for the second quarter of 2019 represent the seventh-consecutive year-over-year quarterly decline in fatalities, starting in the last quarter of 2017.

Other findings from the 2018 FARS data include:

  • Fatalities among children (14 and younger) declined 10.3 percent;
  • Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities declined 3.6 percent;
  • Speeding-related fatalities declined 5.7 percent; and
  • Motorcyclist fatalities declined 4.7 percent.

NHTSA said it is looking to reduce fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists, among whom 2018 fatalities increased by 3.4 percent (to 6,283) and 6.3 percent (to 857), respectively. According to the FARS data:

NHTSA is examining planned upgrades to the New Car Assessment Program – the 5-Star Ratings system for new vehicles. As part of these NCAP upgrades, NHTSA will consider new technologies tied to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, among other vulnerable road users.

The 2018 FARS release also clarifies previously released data on large trucks involved in fatal crashes. NHTSA reclassified several light pickup trucks to an appropriate large truck category. As a result, the 9 percent increase in large-truck-related fatalities reported for 2017 has been revised to 4.9 percent. For 2018, large-truck related fatalities increased by 0.9 percent. The details of the scope of the changes are documented in the 2018 fatal motor vehicle crashes overview research note.

With this release, NHTSA also introduced its new Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST), a query tool that lets users not only query fatal crash data but also generate estimates of crashes and people injured in crashes.

Click here to view the 2018 fatal motor vehicle crashes overview research note. Click here to view the 2019 six-month estimate data.

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