While the novel coronavirus and its impact on travel will likely be one of the biggest stories to come out of 2020, 2019 had a decrease of its own in traffic deaths on the nation’s roadways. According to a report released by the World Health Organization, 38,800 people died in car crashes on US roads last year. The number represents a 2% drop from the previous year. The number of injuries requiring medical attention also dropped by 2%.
While the overall number of deaths may have declined, this does not mean that deaths were down in every state. Vermont enjoyed a 31% decline in traffic related fatalities for the year. New Hampshire dropped 30% and South Dakota was down a respectable 21%. However, Maine saw a 35% increase in the number of fatalities its emergency crews responded to while Wyoming increased by 32% and Delaware was up 20%.
Studies into the specifics regarding these numbers will, according to the WHO, likely take years. However, advances in vehicle design and the integration of important safety systems like automatic braking and lane guidance are certainly making their marks. Additionally, municipality-led programs like Vision Zero and the Road to Zero coalition are also contributing to gradual declines.
It is worth noting that the fatalities counted in these studies do not only represent motor vehicle versus motor vehicle collisions. Bicyclists, pedestrians, and others are also counted, and the numbers indicate that these groups use roadways at their own peril. In fact, of the 1.35 million global traffic deaths that occur every year, more than half of those lost were either riding a bike, a motorcycle, or walking.