NHTSA Projects Fewer Q1 Year-Over-Year Traffic Fatalities

Light traffic in California
Light traffic moves along California 110 toward downtown Los Angeles on March 31. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

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A statistical projection of overall traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2020 shows that an estimated 7,780 people died in crashes, a decrease of nearly 1%, or 70 fewer fatalities compared with the first quarter of 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA’s quarterly “early estimates” report, made public June 19, said that there were an estimated 7,850 fatalities projected for the first quarter of 2019.

However, preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled in the first three months of 2020 decreased by about 40.1 billion miles or 5.4%.

The estimates contained in the report do not break down how many of the fatalities were large-truck related.

Early Estimate of Motor Veh... by Transport Topics on Scribd

Despite the decline in fatalities when comparing the first quarters of this year and last, the fatality rate for the first quarter of 2020 increased to 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, up from the projected rate of 1.05 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the first quarter of 2019, NHTSA said.

“Given the unprecedented nature of the health emergency and the limited data collected thus far, it is unclear what conclusions or broader trends can be extrapolated at this point,” NHTSA said in a statement.

The estimates will be refined when the projections for the first six months of 2020 are released in late September, the report said.

“Due to recent anecdotal reports of increased speeding and reckless driving on emptier roads in recent months, NHTSA has launched a new summer ad campaign to remind drivers to drive safely as Americans get back out on the road,” the agency said. “We will be following the data closely and issuing a special report on traffic safety during this unique period later this summer.”

NHTSA reported earlier that fatalities increased in 2018 compared with 2017 in the large-truck occupants, pedestrians and pedalcyclists categories.

NHTSA said that overall fatalities increased 10 consecutive quarters beginning with the fourth quarter of 2014, until the 1.1% decline seen in the second quarter of 2017. The second quarter of 2019 represents the seventh consecutive quarter with year-to-year decreases in fatalities since the fourth quarter of 2017.



In January, FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen said at a conference that he has tasked his agency this year with finding ways to turn around an increase in large-truck fatalities over the past four years.

“When I assumed this role as acting administrator three months ago, the members of this panel asked me what are my top priorities,” Mullen told a group attending a session at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting Jan. 14. “That to me was a no-brainer. The top priority for me at this agency is to reverse that four-year trend increasing fatalities involved with large trucks and buses.”

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