By on May 6, 2020

What this spring needed was more talk of sudden death. So here you go.

According to preliminary estimates released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fewer people died in highway crashes in 2019 — pushing the nation’s death rate down even further from a modern-era high point reached in 2016.

While data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) does seem to indicate a third straight year of decline, we’re still a ways off from numbers reached just a handful of years ago.

The predicted drop is 1.2 percent, following 2018’s 2.3-percent drop and 2017’s 0.9-percent drop. In total, the NHTSA predicts 36,120 roadway fatalities last year, with deaths down across the board — among drivers, passengers (though just barely), pedestrians, and cyclists. Those latter two categories saw their unfortunate membership decline 2 and 3 percent, respectively.

A move in the right direction, for sure, but a far cry from the U.S. being able to boast of the safest streets in the land. In the mid-2010s, as sales, miles driven, and the economy soared to new post-recession heights, traffic fatalities took a sharp turn upwards, rising 8.4 and 6.5 percent, respectively, in 2015 and 2016.

Last year’s predicted tally is still significantly above the 32,429 fatalities seen in 2011. However, these stats can be viewed through different lenses. With a fatality rate of 1.1 per 100 million miles traveled, 2019 appears to tie 2011 and 2013 for the lowest rate seen since before the recession (that being the non-virus-related Great Recession, of course).

Given the vastly fewer miles driven by Americans these past couple of months, coupled with widespread stay-at-home orders, 2020 is shaping up to be an interesting year, data-wise. That said, a number of states, among them Massachusetts and Minnesota, have reported a spike in speeding and collisions during their lockdowns.

As we saw with recent Cannonball Run record attempts, wide-open lanes can lead to a thirst for speed among some of our more adventurous drivers.

Were these reductions seen countrywide, you ask? Nope, though only one NHTSA reporting region out of 10 saw an increase in traffic fatalities. That region was the Southeast, comprising Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Caroline, and Alabama. There, fatalities rose 2 percent. The area with the greatest decrease was New England (a region that does not include Connecticut, in the agency’s study). That area saw deaths sink 8 percent. The very central U.S., comprising Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, held steady with no apparent increase or decrease.

Keep in mind that this data is still preliminary. The agency will come out with a final report later this year.

[Image: LanaElcova/Shutterstock]

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24 Comments on “Three Makes a Trend: Traffic Deaths Down Again...”

  • avatar

    Here in So. Cal. there are less collisions but more injuries and deaths because of increased speeds…


  • avatar

    The air is cleaner and traffic deaths are down. Could it be because we have nowhere to go? I’m going to go out on a limb and say jewelry sales are way down, because maybe the stores are closed. Just my luck, I needed a new watch yesterday

    • 0 avatar

      Read The Post – let me quote the relevant section:

      “According to preliminary estimates released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fewer people died in highway crashes in 2019”

      2019 AKA last year.

      • 0 avatar

        Since 2020 is only 5 months old I guess it’s premature to quote any reliable stats at the moment, but overall I’ll bet the rent by year’s end 2020 will rank low in traffic fatalities

  • avatar

    “among them Massachusetts and Minnesota, have reported a spike in speeding and collisions during their lockdowns.”

    Are you sure there has been a spike in collisions? The car insurance industry is refunding premiums because the number of collisions had declined so much. Since most of the collisions I saw were people texting in bumper to bumper traffic I have a hard time thinking collisions have increased.

    • 0 avatar

      “The car insurance industry is refunding premiums because the number of collisions had declined so much.”

      Really? I have never heard of an insurance company *refunding* a premium because its risk decreased, ever.

      • 0 avatar

        Example (Travelers):

        “We know that many of our customers are doing their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home. That means many of them are driving fewer miles, resulting in a decrease in auto claims.

        With that in mind, we have launched the Stay-at-Home Auto Premium Credit Program, which will automatically give U.S. personal auto insurance customers a 15% credit on their April and May premiums. It’s our way of supporting our customers, and we hope it helps ease some of the financial burden many are experiencing.

        We will continue to assess the program as more information comes to light about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the driving environment and auto claims.”

  • avatar

    I have no doubt that US highway fatalities will drop dramatically in 2020, considering we’re in a recession if not a depression, and we’ve been in lockdown mode for some time. Historically, fatality declines are strongly associated with economic downturns.

    I doubt people will begin driving recreationally in large numbers even as states ease their lockdowns. I know I’ll think long and hard about going to restaurants again, just as an example, at least until an effective vaccine becomes widely available.

    It wouldn’t suprise me if fatalities in the US drop below 30,000 this year, which would be the lowest by far since WWII, anecdotal accounts of people speeding and crashing on our comparatively empty roads notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar

      ^^This, I don’t care if everything opened up tomorrow, I don’t think many people are going to look for crowds to join until they feel it’s absolutely safe to do so

      The sad thing is the more fun something is, sports/movies/concerts/plays/restaurants, the more crowded those things tend to be

    • 0 avatar

      The private sector lost 20.236 million jobs in April, according to a report published Wednesday from the payroll company ADP.

      The hardest-hit sector was leisure and hospitality, which shrank by 8.6 million jobs in April, according to ADP. That was followed by trade and transportation, down 3.4 million jobs. Construction lost 2.5 million, and manufacturing shrank by 1.7 million. Professional and business services contracted by 1.2 million.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t worry, we’ll get a chance to get it right on the next pandemic. Except every country made mistakes to some degree. The final verdict won’t be known for years afterward anyways.

        Mexico sat on the fence for a good month after the US response and Mexico cases/deaths are still ramping up, yet to plateau.

        Except or let’s say the rules were perfect or ideal for Denver. That’s still a gross overreaction for say Winslow Arizona. Or they didn’t go far enough for NYC and surrounding or LA.

        Clearly one size doesn’t fit all. But moving forward, at least now we have baselines and control groups. I’ll bet even yearly flu seasons are handled different.

        • 0 avatar

          Optimism is always as welcome as a new pickup model, DM. However, I disagree that we have to wait for a verdict. Predictions of a million or more deaths in the US were criminally negligent and completely fraudulent. Hysteria resulted, which caused the “lockdown” response. Many states are STILL on lockdown!

          The vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly, were known from the very beginning, and that is where the bulk of our deaths came from, particularly in New York. In our blunderbuss response, we failed them.

          I have no idea what you mean about “baselines” and “control groups.” The next virus will be different, just like wuhan was different from H1N1.

          Here is the data we do have: we have cut the legs off of the best economy in our lifetimes in order to respond to a virus that is about as deadly as the seasonal flu. The rest is media hype and self-justification. We panicked. We should have stayed calm and rallied around our elderly population and those others who were at risk.

          We would have had FEWER deaths from the virus and we would not have sent millions of our citizens into poverty. This was quite obvious from the beginning, but people simply did not want to look at the evidence. They just stared at the TV screen and let their emotions destroy their reason.

          • 0 avatar

            You should read this outstanding article, DM, which summarizes the evidence.


          • 0 avatar

            Yes they’re all different, but how they’re transmitted stays the same.

            Sweden is the control group, while the rest of the world’s lock downs are baseline. Yes these aren’t the correct scientific terns but you know exactly what I mean.

            What country or countries didn’t make mistakes?

          • 0 avatar

            “predictions of a million or more deaths in the US were criminally negligent and completely fraudulent. ”

            Did you read the study? And I quote, “In the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour, we
            would expect…”

            The millions number was if nothing was done. Millions was as high as it could possibly go. The low estimate was 50k by 2021. We’re at 70k today and the White House expects 135k by August first when this thing will still be far from over.

            Please stop spreading misinformation.


          • 0 avatar

            New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that most new patients hospitalized with the Chinse coronavirus have largely been sheltering at home, calling the preliminary data “shocking.”

            Cuomo said during his daily press briefing that the early findings surveyed 100 New York hospitals involving approximately 1,000 patients. Sixty-six percent of new hospital admissions were patients who virtually remained in their home, while nursing homes ranked second for new admissions at 18 percent.

            On Tuesday, 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at New York nursing homes were reported, bringing the total number of coronavirus deaths in such facilities across the state since March 1 to 4,800. Cuomo has garnered intense criticism over his March 25 directive ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients.

            “If you notice, 18% of the people came from nursing homes, less than 1% came from jail or prison, 2% came from the homeless population, 2% from other congregate facilities, but 66% of the people were at home, which is shocking to us,” the governor told reporters.

            “This is a surprise. Overwhelmingly, the people were at home,” he added. “We thought maybe they were taking public transportation, and we’ve taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home.”

            Cuomo also said New York’s hospitalization rate continues to drop, but called the progress “painfully slow.” Still, roughly 600 infected people are going to hospitals daily.

            As of Wednesday, New York has around 319,000 coronavirus cases and 19,415 deaths.

          • 0 avatar


            Here you go. ECONOMIC lockdowns have had NO EFFECT on mortality. The study is criminally fraudulent. The University of East Anglia. Leading scientific experts. NOT a prediction – this is data analysis. If you have any interest in the truth, you should read this.


        • 0 avatar

          Another 3.169 million Americans applied for initial unemployment claims last week, the Department of Labor reports, as the total now runs up to 33.5 million who have lost their jobs in the government-directed closures of the U.S. economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to save as many lives as possible.

          Add to that the 5.8 million who already were unemployed a little more than a month ago when unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent, and suddenly, horribly the effective rate — different from the reported rate we’ll see tomorrow — could already be 23.7 percent, with about 39.3 million jobless.

          For perspective, unemployment peaked in the Great Depression at about 25 percent, but at the present rate of layoffs amid the closures, the U.S. economy could speed past that this week.

          And at 33.3 million, we could already be four times the number of job losses from the 2008-2009 recession of 8.3 million. Economic devastation like we are seeing right now has never been seen in modern history.

        • 0 avatar

          The economic lockdowns were useless at controlling the wuhan. The evidence is in.

  • avatar

    “Only one NHTSA reporting region out of 10 saw an increase in traffic fatalities. That region was the Southeast, comprising Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Caroline, and Alabama”. This is to be expected when free-for-all conduct while driving is a source of regional pride.

  • avatar

    And New England (with or without CT) has historically had the lowest fatality rates, whether measured per capita, per registered vehicle, or per miles driven.

    Regional differences within the US are quite varied.

  • avatar

    Fatality rates always fall wwith economic downturns, so 2020 should be a big improvement over 2019.
    And 32,000 last year? Who cares? That is only 10 days worth of COVID 19 deaths…..snark.

  • avatar

    FARS. Like TRD, another acronym desperately in search of one more letter. Couldn’t get the word “Tracking” in there?

  • avatar

    New York State officials allowed nursing home employees infected with coronavirus to continue to work and to treat residents at the Hornell Gardens facility in rural Steuben County, according to a New York Post report.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under increasing scrutiny for a March 25 directive ordering nursing homes to accept coronavirus patients. The text of the directive stated (original emphasis): “No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

    Cuomo has since said that nursing homes could tell the state Department of Public Health they could not accept such patients, or transfer them to other facilities. However, some homes have said that the state was unresponsive when they reached out, and that they felt intense pressure to accept the patients — despite the unique risk coronavirus generally poses to elderly people.

    The Post reported Thursday:

    The state Health Department allowed nurses and other staff who tested positive for the coronavirus to continue treating COVID-19 patients at an upstate nursing home, The Post has learned.

    State officials signed off on the move during an April 10 conference call that excluded local officials from Steuben County, who protested the move, according to a document provided by the county government’s top administrator, Jack Wheeler.

    At least 15 people have died at the Hornell Gardens nursing home in the tiny town of Hornell since the outbreak, according to county tallies. State records show just seven deaths across the county and include no data about this home.

    Roughly one third of the staff and residents at the home have contracted the virus, the Post added.

    Last week, Steuben County reported that 73% of its 33 coronavirus deaths at the time had been linked to nursing homes.

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