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Rising Trend In Highway Death Rates Reversing

Idaho and Washington among states that see small decline this year.

Reversing a trend of sharply increasing motor vehicle deaths in 2015 and 2016, the first half of 2017 is down 1% from the corresponding period in 2016, according to a recent study by the National Safety Council.  Highway death rates sharply increased by 6% in 2015 over 2014 and increased another 10% in 2016 over 2015.  So, a reversal of this trend is a welcomed development. Even better news is reported for 2017 in Idaho and Washington states where highway deaths reduced 10% and 6% respectively from 2016 figures.

The alarming increase in traffic deaths since 2015 has been blamed on distracted driving with texting and cell phone use as significant contributing factors. Washington State enacted a new tougher law against distracted driving that became effective on July 23. 

Motor-vehicle deaths for January through June of 2017 totaled 18,680. But, the January through June figure for 2017 was still up 8% nationally from the 2015 figure. The estimated annual population death rate is 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population, down 2% from the preliminary 2016 rate. The estimated annual mileage death rate is 1.2 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, unchanged from the preliminary 2016 rate.

Medically consulted motor-vehicle injuries for the first six months of 2017 are estimated to be about 2,148,000, a 2% decrease from 2016. 

The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage through June was $191.1 billion, a 7% decrease from 2016.

To help reduce fatalities on the road, the National Safety Council recommends drivers:

  • Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip
  • Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation 
  • Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue 
  • Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free 
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits  Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them; can help drivers understand features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras. 
  • Visit or use the NHTSA's website to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall 
  • Check the NSC State of Safety report to gauge whether your state’s road safety laws are strong enough

Source: National Safety Council News Release, NSC Motor Vehicle Fatality Estimates