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NHTSA: Traffic deaths down in 2017, but ‘dangerous actions’ putting people at risk

head on crash
Photo: David Parsons/iStockphoto

Washington — Fatalities on the nation’s roadways decreased by nearly 2 percent in 2017 and are on pace to drop again in 2018, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Last year, 37,133 people died in motor vehicle crashes – 673 fewer than in 2016. That comes after back-to-back years of increases – a 6.5 percent jump from 2015 to 2016 and 8.4 percent from 2014 to 2015.

“The good news is that fatalities are trending downward,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in an Oct. 3 press release, “but the tragic news is that 37,133 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. All of us need to work together to reduce fatalities on the roads.”

The fatality rate of 1.16 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also marks a decrease – around 2.5 percent – from 2016. Pedestrian deaths dropped 1.7 percent (5,977 from 6,080), the first decrease since 2013. Motorcycle fatalities went down by 3.1 percent (5,172 from 5,337).

Deaths involving large trucks, meanwhile, increased to 841 from 725.

Data also shows that alcohol-impaired driving played a role in 29 percent of all roadway deaths. Distracted drivers were involved in 8.5 percent of the fatalities, while drowsy driving accounted for 2.1 percent. Around 47 percent of vehicle occupants in fatal crashes were not using seat belts or other restraints.

“Dangerous actions such as speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence are still putting many Americans, their families and those they share the road with at risk,” Heidi King, NHTSA’s deputy director, said in the release. “Additionally, we must address the emerging trend of drug-impaired driving to ensure we are reducing traffic fatalities and keeping our roadways safe for the traveling public.”

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