Vehicle Deaths Estimated at 40,000 for Third Straight Year

For the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. has experienced three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths, according to preliminary estimates released Feb. 13 by the National Safety Council. In 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes – a 1% decline from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths). About 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year – also a 1% decrease over 2017.


Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., had at least a 5.8% spike in fatalities, according to Council estimates. Five states experienced declines of more than 9.4%: Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

Your driving habits matter. Among those killed on our roadways were the family members of these survivor advocates. Their pain is shared by thousands of others. Enough is enough.


The Council’s preliminary estimate signals a leveling off after years of consecutive rises. Discouragingly, last year’s estimated 40,000 deaths is 14% higher than four years ago. Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high. The Council’s estimates do not reveal causation; however, 2017 final data show spikes in deaths among pedestrians, while distraction continues to be involved in 8% of crashes, and drowsy driving in an additional 2%.


“Forty-thousand deaths is unacceptable,” said Nicholas Smith, interim president and CEO of NSC. “We cannot afford to tread water any more. We know what works, but we need to demonstrate the commitment to implementing the solutions. Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements and creating a culture of safer driving.”


NSC has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. All estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as the data mature. NSC collects fatality data every month from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, so deaths occurring within one year of the crash and on both public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.


To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to:


  • Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions.
  • Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids. Visit StopEverydayKillers.org to understand the impact of the nation’s opioid crisis.
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
  • Learn how to use your vehicle’s safety systems. Visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information.
  • Fix recalls immediately. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall.
  • Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways. The NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws.
  • Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero to get involved.


NSC has issued traffic fatality estimates since 1921. Supplemental estimate information, including estimates for each state, can be found here.


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