Photo of New Jersey Turnpike by Milaurenti/Wikipedia.

Photo of New Jersey Turnpike by Milaurenti/Wikipedia.

Motor vehicle deaths in the first six months of 2017 are 1% lower compared to the same six-month period in 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council.

But the country is fresh off the steepest estimated two-year increase in motor vehicle deaths since 1964, and it's too early to conclude whether the upward trend is over, the National Safety Council (NSC) said. The estimated road fatalities during the first six months of 2017 still are 8% higher than the 2015 six-month estimates. Moreover, the final six months of the calendar year — July to December — tend to be deadlier than the first six.

An estimated 18,680 people have been killed on U.S. roads since January and 2.1 million were seriously injured. The total estimated cost of these deaths and injuries is $191 billion, according to NSC.

"The price of our cultural complacency is more than a hundred fatalities each day," said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. "Although the numbers may be leveling off, the road to zero deaths will require accelerating improvements in technology, engaging drivers and investing in our infrastructure."

NSC has tracked fatality trends and issued estimates for nearly 100 years. Last winter, the council estimated as many as 40,000 people were killed on roads in 2016 — a 6% rise over 2015 and the largest two-year percentage increase in deaths in 53 years. Those estimates — as well as the 2017 preliminary estimates — may be adjusted as more complete data become available. 

Factors impacting motor vehicle fatality trends include an improved economy and lower gas prices, both of which have helped fuel a 1.7% increase in miles driven from 2016 to 2017, according to NSC.

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 and visit for resources
  • Learn about vehicle 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 to check for open recalls
  • Check the NSC State of Safety report to gauge whether your state’s road safety laws are strong enough.

Supplemental information and state-by-state estimates can be found here.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet