March 5, 2021 10:30 AM, EST

NSC Data Reveals More Motor Vehicle Deaths, Fewer Miles Driven in 2020

Lorraine MartinNational Safety Council President Lorraine Martin (The Accidental Safety Pro Podcast via YouTube)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Despite a decrease in miles driven during 2020, motor vehicle-related deaths were the highest they have been in 13 years, according to estimates from the National Safety Council.

NSC, which focuses on eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths, released preliminary data March 4 indicating 42,060 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. This figure represents an 8% increase over the 39,107 motor vehicle deaths recorded in 2019.

The increase in the rate of death is the highest estimated year-over-year jump NSC has recorded since 1924. Miles driven in 2020 dropped 13% compared with 2019 levels. NSC estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2020 totaled 2.83 trillion, while vehicles miles traveled in 2019 were 3.26 trillion.

Some 4.8 million additional roadway users were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, resulting in an estimated cost to society of $474 billion.

“It is tragic that, in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” NSC President Lorraine Martin said. “These data expose our lack of an effective roadway safety culture.”

Places that experienced more than a 15% increase in the estimated number of vehicle-related deaths last year were Arkansas, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.

Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming, experienced a drop.

American Trucking Associations spokesman Sean McNally said the group believes the best way to reduce crashes is to understand what causes them.

“This is why we have repeatedly called for an update to federal government’s large-truck, crash-causation study so we can not only understand the causes of crashes but develop effective countermeasures and strategies to prevent them,” McNally said.

In January 2020, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a request for information pertaining to the development of a Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study. Technology and driver behavior have changed in the more than 15 years since the agency’s original study.


Fleets are investing in tech-based safety tools that inform and forewarn potential risk. But how do they condition and prepare drivers to respond to safety alerts? Find out as the RoadSigns Team speaks with Tom DiSalvi, VP of safety at Schneider National, and Charlie Mohn, director of product innovation at Drivewyze. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to

NSC re-emphasized its call to President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to commit to zero roadway deaths by 2050. The group recommended equitable implementation of road safety laws and policies as well as infrastructure improvements. Laws highlighted by NSC include bans of all cellphone use and lowering speed limits in accordance with roadway design.

In terms of technology, NSC noted driver assistance systems, ignition interlock devices and automated enforcement have the potential to save lives.

“It is past time to address roadway safety holistically and effectively,” Martin said, “and NSC stands ready to assist all stakeholders, including the federal government.”

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: