2018 Third Consecutive Year of at Least 40,000 Motor Vehicle Deaths

The NSC estimates that in 2018, 40,000 people died in car crashes—a 1 percent decline from 40,231 deaths in 2017 and 40,327 deaths in 2016. An estimated 4.5 million people were seriously injured in car crashes in 2018, also a 1 percent decrease from 2017 figures.

The United States has experienced three consecutive years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, according to preliminary estimates released Feb. 13 by the National Safety Council.

NSC estimates that in 2018, 40,000 people died in car crashes—a 1 percent decline from 40,231 deaths in 2017 and 40,327 deaths in 2016. An estimated 4.5 million people were seriously injured in car crashes in 2018, also a 1 percent decrease from 2017 figures.

The Council's preliminary estimate for motor vehicle deaths shows a leveling off after several years of consecutive rises. The estimated 40,000 deaths in 2018 is 14 percent higher than the estimate from four years ago.

According to the Council, driver behavior is likely a contributing factor to the numbers staying unfortunately high. NSC estimates do not show causation, but final data for 2017 show spikes in pedestrian deaths, distraction is involved in 8 percent of car crashes, and drowsy driving is involved in an additional 2 percent.

"Forty-thousand deaths is simply unacceptable," said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "We cannot afford to tread water any more. We know what works but need to demonstrate the commitment to implementing the solutions. Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements, and creating a culture of safer driving."

At the state level, the Council estimates that seven states—Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—and Washington, D.C., had at least a 5.8 percent spike in fatalities. Five states—Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wyoming—experienced declines of more than 9.4 percent.

The Council has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for almost 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight changes as the data mature.

The NSC reminds drivers to take the following steps to help increase road safety:

  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions. Visit nsc.org for defensive driving tips.
  • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation's opioid crisis.
  • Stay engaged in teens' driving habits. Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall.
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.
  • Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to get involved.

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