Traffic Death Rates Continue to Decrease, NHTSA Says

fridley, minnesota, message on billboard to slow down, buckle up, drive sober and pay attention to be the solution to traffic deaths
Traffic Fatality Rates Continue to Decrease: NHTSAEducation Images - Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released 2022 distracted driving data as well as preliminary traffic fatality statistics for 2023 on Monday that showed roadway deaths are on the decline. At the same time, the agency also announced the rollout of a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

From an overall traffic fatality standpoint, the 2023 data is encouraging. Compared to 2022, Americans drove more miles in 2023 and fatality rates were lower. NHTSA is estimating that 40,990 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2023. That is a 3.6 percent decrease from the 42,514 traffic fatalities in 2022. Additionally, the fourth quarter of 2023 saw a decrease in traffic fatalities. That marked the seventh consecutive quarter with a decrease since the second quarter of 2022.

According to the NHTSA projections, “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. Estimates also show that VMT in 2023 increased by about 67.5 billion miles, a 2.1 percent increase over 2022.”

Those statistics show that traffic safety is heading in the right direction. However, distracted driving remains a serious problem. In 2022, 3,308 people were killed and an estimated additional 289,310 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to NHTSA. Distracted drivers also put those who are not even in a vehicle at greater risk. People who are walking, riding a bicycle, or otherwise not inside a vehicle are considered "vulnerable road users" by the agency. In 2022, 621 of those people were killed by distracted drivers.

“Distracted driving is extremely dangerous,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said. “Distraction comes in many forms, but it is also preventable. Our rebranded campaign reminds everyone to Put the Phone Away or Pay, because distracted driving can cost you in fines – or even cost your life or the life of someone else on the road.” Ads for the campaign, named "Put the Phone Away or Pay," will run on television, radio, and digital platforms from April 1 to April 8.

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