US Traffic Deaths Decline by an Estimated 3.6% in 2023

Fatalities Decreasing Even Though People Are Driving More
police car flashing lights
The estimated fatality rate for 2023 decreased to 1.26 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from the reported rate of 1.33 per 100 million VMT in 2022. (Getty Images)

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A total of 40,990 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways in 2023, a 3.6% decline over the 42,514 highway deaths the prior year, according to new statistical projections by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The fourth quarter of 2023 represents the seventh consecutive quarterly decline in fatalities beginning with the second quarter of 2022, the report said. The decline in fatalities comes despite an increase of 67.5 billion miles traveled during 2023, a 2.1% increase over 2022, according to preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration.

The estimated fatality rate for 2023 decreased to 1.26 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from the reported rate of 1.33 per 100 million VMT in 2022.

The report, made public April 1, does not separate the number of deaths in truck-involved crashes from the overall total of highway deaths.

NHTSA said it is continuing to gather and finalize data on crash fatalities for 2022 and 2023 using information from police crash reports and other sources. “The Final File for 2022 as well as the Annual Report File for 2023 will be available in the early part of 2025 that usually results in the revision of fatality totals and the ensuing fatality rates and percentage changes,” the NHTSA report said.

In a related report also released April 1, NHTSA said 716 fewer people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways during 2022, a 1.7% decrease from 43,230 in 2021 to 42,514 in 2022. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also decreased by 3.6% from 1.38% in 2021 to 1.33% in 2022.

The estimated number of people injured on U.S. roadways decreased in 2022 to 2.38 million, falling 4.6% from 2.5 million in 2021. The injury rate per 100 million VMT decreased by 6.3% from 80 in 2021 to 75 in 2022.

“We are pleased to share that traffic fatalities continue to decline,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said at an April 1 news conference that also kicked off the agency’s campaign to reduce traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving, in part because of motorists using cellphones while behind the wheel.

“You drive, you text, you pay, served us well for nine years,” Shulman said of the agency’s past campaign slogan. “But our research shows that people are continuing to use phones behind the wheel for more than just texting. All these behaviors are dangerous and deadly. We want everyone to know, ‘Put the phone away or pay,’ ” the agency’s new campaign slogan.

Sophie Shulman


The rebranded campaign is aimed at reminding drivers of the deadly dangers and the legal consequences — including fines — of distracted driving.

Shulman — along with Chief Robert McCullough of the Baltimore County, Md., Police Department; Alan Morales of Students Against Destructive Decisions; and Joel Feldman of — previewed the campaign assets at the kickoff event.

“In 2022, 3,308 people lost their lives in crashes involving distracted drivers, and nearly 290,000 people were injured,” Shulman said. “Almost 20% of those killed in distracted driving-related crashes were people outside the vehicle — pedestrians, cyclists and others on the road.

“Sadly, distracted driving crashes  are underreported, and many drivers don’t want to admit being on the phones right before the crash. It’s also difficult for law enforcement to detect distraction during crash investigations.”

The report on distracted driving is not limited to cellphones.

“Often discussions regarding distracted driving center around cellphone use and texting, but distracted driving also includes things such as eating, talking to passengers, adjusting the radio/climate controls or adjusting other vehicle controls,” the report concluded.

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