Based on state-reported statistics, the NSC says approximately 18,720 people died on U.S. roadways between January and June of this year—a less than 0.5% dip from 18,770 deaths recorded in the first six months of 2017.
On the bright side, the number of people dying each year in traffic collisions nationwide appears to be remaining consistent after two years of sharp increases. From 2014 to 2016, the number of people killed in motor vehicle collisions jumped from a little over 35,000 to more than 40,000, before leveling off at about 40,000 fatalities last year, a trend that appears to be continuing.
The surge in highway deaths coincided with a growing economy and cheaper gas prices, which combined to lead to a sharp increase in vehicle miles traveled, which NSC researchers indicate can create the conditions for increased motor vehicle fatalities. While the economy continues to grow, the number of vehicle miles traveled so far this year is not increasing at the rate of those 2014-2016 levels. Current levels are still lower than the early 2000s.
NSC researchers say speeding, drug and alcohol impaired driving, distracted driving and failure to wear seat belts all continue to contribute to motor vehicle fatalities even as vehicles and roadways become safer.