Responsibility.org Statement on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Data Release
(Arlington, VA) - Traffic deaths decreased in 2019 for the third consecutive year and preliminary data show continuing declines in 2020, according to data released today (Wednesday) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The sustained decline in deaths on America’s roads shows the success of road safety initiatives and the need for redoubled commitment to eliminate traffic deaths.
There were 36,096 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2019, down two percent from 36,835 fatalities in 2018. During this time, vehicle miles travelled (VMT) increased by nearly one percent, making the fatality rate per 100 million VMT 1.10 fatality – the lowest rate since 2014 – down from 1.14 in 2018.
Additionally, NHTSA released preliminary estimates of motor vehicle traffic fatalities for the first six-months of 2020, including the second quarter which was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders. NHTSA data indicates for the first half of 2020 (January – June) an overall decline of two percent in traffic fatalities, and during the second quarter of 2020 (April – June) there was more than a three percent decline in traffic fatalities compared to the same time period in 2019.
In 2018 (most recent data available1), speeding and not wearing seatbelts caused more than half of all traffic deaths. The leading causes of traffic deaths were alcohol-impaired driving (29 percent), not wearing seatbelts (27 percent), speeding (26 percent), drug impaired driving (24 percent), distracted driving (8 percent), and drowsy driving (2 percent).
Responsibility.org President and CEO Chris Swonger welcomed the decrease in traffic deaths and called for redoubled efforts:
“America’s roads continue to get safer as a result of effective interventions to combat the leading causes of traffic deaths. All traffic deaths are preventable, and this success should redouble momentum to eliminate them. No American should be at danger from impaired driving, speeding, not wearing seatbelts, drowsy, or distracted driving.
Responsibility.org has a longstanding history of leading innovative initiatives to eliminate impaired driving, including Stop High Risk Impaired Driving (STOP HRID), which brings together road safety, law enforcement, and treatment experts to identify the factors that put Americans at highest risk and the law enforcement and policy reforms needed to make roads safer.”
NHTSA’s 2019 findings also include preliminary analysis of traffic deaths in 2020 and speculate on potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the pandemic on road safety and traffic deaths are not yet clear, though preliminary data for 2020 show continued decreases in traffic deaths.
Nationally representative polling2 conducted for Responsibility.org in May 2020 focused on drinking behaviors during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders showed that approximately two-thirds of Americans are drinking the same or less alcohol than before stay-at-home measures were implemented, and 11 percent have stopped drinking altogether. The survey did not imply that those individuals who were consuming alcohol were drinking in an unsafe or irresponsible manner, nor were they driving impaired. Additional results from the survey showed the inability to go out (49%) and bar/restaurant closures (34%) were prominent reasons Americans cited for drinking more alcohol — they were also the top two reasons why Americans are drinking less.
Responsibility.org encourages adults who choose to drink to drink safely, mindfully and responsibly and to evaluate your drinking regularly to make sure you are fully comfortable with your choices about alcohol, motivations and intended outcomes when drinking.
1 NHTSA, FARS, 11/19
2 APCO Insights, May 2020, https://www.responsibility.org/media_center/most-americans-drink-responsibly-under-stay-at-home-orders/
About Responsibility.org: The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and work with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empowers adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. Responsibility.org is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; DIAGEO; Edrington, Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; and Pernod Ricard USA. For nearly 30 years, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit Responsibility.org.