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NHTSA: Traffic fatalities decreased in 2023; still higher than before pandemic

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Traffic fatalities in 2023 decreased by 3.6% but fatality totals remain higher than in pre-pandemic years, according to preliminary data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Monday

The federal agency reports 40,990 traffic deaths in 2023 compared to 42,514 in 2022. 

Nationally, traffic fatalities surged during the pandemic with a 7% (39,007 deaths) and 10% (42,230) jump in 2020 and 2021.

Q4 2023 represents the seventh consecutive quarterly decline in fatalities, with the downward trend starting in 2022, the report says. 

The fatality rate also decreased to 1.26 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), according to the data. The fatality rate was 1.33 in 2022, 1.38 in 2021, 1.34 in 2020 and 1.11 in 2019. 

Drivers also traveled 67.5 billion (2.1%) more miles in 2023 than in 2022, the report says. 

Eight of the 10 regions are estimated to have fewer fatalities, the report says. 

Region 1, which includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, witnessed the largest decrease (15%) in fatalities. 

The data shows Region 10, which includes Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, saw an increase in fatalities by 5%. Region 3, which includes North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Delaware, increased by 1%. 

Alaska saw the largest decrease (30%) of fatalities with the number dropping from 82 to 57. Rhode Island saw the largest increase (38.5%) with the number increasing from 52 to 72. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released its 2024 National Roadway Safety Strategy Progress Report (NRSS) in February, which highlights key steps taken last year by the department and safety partners to improve road safety and decrease fatalities.

NRSS was launched in January 2022 after nearly 43,000 died in roadway-related incidents in 2021. That was the highest number of fatalities since 2005, according to the report.

The progress report includes a list of actions taken last year that USDOT says are accomplishments in addressing the NRSS. The most significant actions, according to USDOT, were:

    • Used $1.7 billion to improve roadway safety at the local, regional, and Tribal levels through the “Safe Streets and Roads for All” discretionary grant program. More than 1,000 communities received funding, representing close to 70% of all Americans;
    • Accelerated the deployment of new motor vehicle safety technologies through rulemakings for automatic emergency braking (AEB) on all new passenger vehicles and heavy vehicles including commercial trucks;
    • Initiated an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for impaired-driving prevention technology standards;
    • Updated key road safety regulations such as the new edition of the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” and revised guidance to encourage states to use federal aid funds for repaving and rehabilitation.


Photo courtesy of ChristopherBernard/iStock

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