2019 Crash Fatality Data Reveals Relative Calm Before the Storm

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest crash fatality data for 2019 showed improving safety conditions for road users from the year prior. That progress is likely to vanish when the data for 2020 are complete.

December 22, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Volodymyr Baleha / Shutterstock

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released 2019 crash fatality data late last week, offering a snapshot of the state of traffic safety on the doorstep of the pandemic, reporting a decrease in traffic fatalities compared to 2018, and the lowest percentage of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased to the lowest percentage since the NHTSA started collecting the data in 1982.

Chris Teale shares news of the new crash fatality data, providing the following specifics from the report:

There were 36,096 fatalities in 2019, down 739 (2%) from 2018, though vehicle miles traveled increased by 0.8%, NHTSA said. Fatalities in most major traffic safety categories saw decreases too: there were 169 fewer pedestrian deaths (down 2.7% from 2018); 568 fewer fatalities caused by alcohol-impaired driving (down 5.3%); 630 fewer deaths of passengers in cars (down 2.8%); and 813 fewer fatalities in urban environments (down 4%).

Teale also notes that the new report should be taken with a grain of salt, as 2020 is likely to undo the progress made in 2019.

"The [NHTSA] said in a special supplementary report for the first half of 2020 that while the number of traffic fatalities between April and June are projected to decrease, there are projected fatality increases across various categories, including in rural areas; among people aged 16-24 years old; with risky drivers, in rollovers and ejections, and among occupants of older vehicles," according to Teale.

Planetizen has also been tracking traffic safety reports as they've come out this year.

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