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NHTSA Estimates Minor Improvement in Roadway Fatalities for 2018 - The Truth About Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its preliminary report on how many people died on U.S. roadways in 2018, indicating that overall traffic deaths had likely fallen by 1 percent. While the information doesn’t exactly justify a party, it’s good news after the last few years attempted to provide new footage for the Red Asphalt series.

As the first major spike in traffic deaths since the “Swinging Sixties,” 2015 freaked everyone out a bit. Save for a few annual hiccups, American traffic deaths (contrasted with its population) had been on the decline for decades. However, by the end of 2016, things looked certain — it was becoming less safe to drive in the United States. 

Of course, that’s all relative to how safe we were before. In truth, those driving in 2016 were statistically less likely to die than than anybody traveling prior to 2009. But many worried that the sudden influx of traffic fatalities were part of a new trend, spurred largely by distracted driving, that would send us hurtling back toward the pre-seatbelt era in terms of crash survivability.

While 2017 gave us a minor reprieve from the previous year’s body count, declining by 2 percent, the risks endured on the road improved by an almost negligible margin. It was better, but only just. The NHTSA claimed that 2018 should offer more of the same.

“A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2018 shows that an estimated 36,750 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes,” the agency said. “This represents a slight decrease of about 1.0 percent as compared to the 37,133 fatalities that were reported to have occurred in 2017.”

Despite the total number of deaths appearing to have stabilized, the NHTSA expressed concerns for pedestrian and cyclist safety. The agency is projecting a 4-percent rise in pedestrian fatalities and a 10-percent increase bicycle-related deaths for 2018.

That’s likely the result of more people having moved into urban areas. According to Automotive News, pedestrian deaths accounted for 16 percent of all U.S traffic deaths in 2017, up from 12 percent in 2009. Following the broader trend of urbanization shows that this was similarly true for motor-vehicle crashes, which have proliferated inside of cities while gradually declining in more rural parts of the country. Deaths of people inside vehicles, which reached an all-time high of 80 percent of all traffic deaths in 1996, fell to 67 percent in 2017. However it should be noted that the 33-percent remainder includes pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists.

Check out the NHTSA’s preliminary study for yourself here.

[Image: Photo Spirit/Shutterstock]

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