Annual traffic fatalities at historic low, but cyclist deaths up

December 23, 2014

Highway drivers received some good news last week: Overall highway fatalities have dropped by 25% since 2004, and by 3.1% since 2012, according to 2013 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Yet some of the most compelling data released shows a number of trends among fatalities associated with drunk driving, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles.

truck accident

Highway fatalities are down – but cyclist fatalities are up. Image from born1945.

FARS covers fatal traffic crash data within the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Crashes “must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a trafficway customarily open to the public and must result in the death of at least one person (occupant of a vehicle or a non-motorist) within 30 days of the crash” in order to be included in the final count.

“With the holidays upon us, I give thanks that more of our friends and family are with us this year because of the broad partnership of safety-driven individuals and organizations who have joined us in making our roads safer for everyone,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. Though fatalities are down, the number of people killed in traffic crashes is still staggering: 32,719 in 2013. “Safety truly is a shared responsibility and we’ve all got more work to do in the New Year to keep more families together – that’s my resolution to the American people,” said Foxx.

First, the positive findings: According to the data, there was a notable decline in the number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes: a 3% drop down to 21,132 deaths, which is the lowest on record since 1975. Large truck occupant and motorcyclist fatalities declined for the first time since 2009, by .9% and 6.4%, respectively. Crash injuries also appear to be on the decline, with estimates of the number of people hurt decreasing compared to 2012’s figures, with the following drops found among passenger vehicle occupants (2.2%), large truck occupants (4%), motorcyclists (5.4%), pedestrians (13%), and cyclists (2%).

Yet there are a few disturbing trends for cyclists and pedestrians. While pedestrian deaths did decline, that figure is still a staggering 15% higher than the record low reported in 2009. And cyclist fatalities jumped by 1.2%, hitting their highest number since 2006. Although alcohol-impaired deaths dropped by 2.5% in 2013, these still accounted for 31% of overall fatalities. “Almost 90 people on average lose their lives each day – and more than 250 are injured every hour – due to drunk driving, not wearing a seatbelt, and the many other factors associated with traffic crashes,” the agency’s Deputy Administrator David Friedman said in a statement.

There are a number of programs designed to combat the causes of these fatalities. The Department began its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” a seasonal program that addresses drunk driving, last week, with a new feature debuting this year: a mobile app called SaferRide that helps connect people who have been drinking with safe rides. Plus, the $1.6 million-worth of grants announced earlier this year have been earmarked for enforcement and education to improve pedestrian safety, including through the Department’s pedestrian safety program, “Everyone Is A Pedestrian.”

Learn more: Check out previous years’ FARS data online here, and download the SaferRide app for iPhone.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Transportation

; ;