Driving Safer? Traffic data shows reduced fatalities for third consecutive year

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WASHINGTON, Utah (ABC4 News) – Traffic may be seem bad, but according to data, Utahns are driving a little safer overall.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent out a press release with preliminary estimates for the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 2019.


Previous data showed a continued decline in traffic deaths during 2018 and 2017. The new data estimates a continued decline in these deaths.

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“Safety is our top priority so this report that traffic fatalities appear to have decreased again for the third year is great news,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said.

According to the release, fatalities decreased in most major traffic safety categories.

  • Drivers (down 3%)
  • Passengers (down 4%)
  • Motorcyclists (down 1%)
  • Pedestrians (down 2%)
  • Pedalcyclists (down 3%)

The preliminary data is available to review.

The press release states that a statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2019 shows an estimated 36, 120 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents an estimated decrease of about 440 from 2018, even though miles traveled increased by 0.9%.

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According to the new data, 10 NHTSA regions are estimated to have decreases in traffic-related fatalities for 2019.

Graphic from NTHSA’s preliminary report showing traffic fatalities per region.

“Providing effective behavioral safety programs is one of NHTSA’s top safety missions, and we know that without the unyielding efforts from our determined and passionate safety partners at the state and local levels, we could never achieve the projected drop in traffic-related fatalities that have been announced today,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens.

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One area that experienced a sight increase is fatalities involving one large truck- the data shows an increase of 1%. A large truck is defined as a vehicle weighing greater than 10,000 pounds on a public highway that has been involved in crashes. This definition includes large pickup trucks.

NHTSA has accelerated it’s efforts to continue the decline of traffic fatalities. This year, they have released $562 million dollars in grants for highway safety in all 50 states.

NHTSA states in the release that the fatality counts for 2018 and 2019 and the ensuing percentage change from 2018 to 2019 will be further revised as the final file for 2018. The annual reporting file for 2019 will become available later this year.  These estimates may be further refined when the projections for the first quarter of 2020 are released in late spring of 2020.

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