The numbers are in—and their negative movement is a huge positive for drivers.
According to the latest information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic fatalities are down in the United States for the first time in 2 years.
Final tallies for 2017 revealed that 37,133 people perished on the roads last year—a 1.8% dip from 2016’s grisly total. And preliminary numbers for the first half of 2018 show an additional 3.1% decrease in the roadway fatality rate so far this year.
NHTSA officials have pointed to a number of factors to help explain the shift, including a greater awareness of distracted driving, despite the fact that the problem remains widespread and deadly. But technology has also been helpful, with some NHTSA officials noting the increase of crash avoidance features in new cars and their ability to cumulatively chip away at the death toll.
Indeed, the safety programs have had to battle against a number of issues typically held responsible for more fatal accidents on the road including the sustained rise of distracted driving and, perhaps less obviously, the sustained rise in the economy.
Boom times are often linked to higher traffic fatality rates, as people are more ready, willing, and able to spend some extra money on gas or road trips. A low unemployment rate, too, leads to more cars on the road in general, culminating in more possibilities for deadly accidents to occur.
It was this fiduciary mix that was largely blamed for 2015’s final fatality total, which came in at 35,485. At the time, it was the highest rate recorded in 50 years. But 2015 didn’t hold the unfortunate record for long. It was immediately topped in 2016, which saw 37,461 people die on the roads, representing a 5.6% uptick from the previous year.
Last year was the first to snap the disturbing streak; but, with the preliminary numbers for 2018 looking even better, hopefully it will start a new trend in the right—and downward—direction.