Crashes and the related fatalities continue to hover at near record levels, according to preliminary estimates released in February from the National Safety Council’s report “The Road to Zero: A Vision for Achieving Zero Roadway Deaths by 2050.” For the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. had three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths. In 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives in car crashes, a 1% decline from the numbers in 2017 and 2016. About 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year, also a 1% decrease over 2017 figures.
The NSC’s estimate signals a leveling off after years of consecutive rises, but last year's estimated 40,000 deaths is 14% higher than four years ago. Driver behavior and impairment are likely contributing to the high numbers. Although the estimates do not reveal causation, the 2017 data show spikes in deaths among pedestrians, while distraction continues to be involved in 8% of crashes, and drowsy driving in an additional 2%.