Traffic fatalities continuing downward trend in first quarter of 2024

June 25, 2024

Tyson Fisher


Over the past two years, the nation’s highways have become progressively safer, with traffic fatalities continuing a downward trend this year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 8,650 traffic fatalities in the first quarter of 2024. That represents a decrease of more than 3% compared to the first three months of 2023.

A drop in traffic fatalities occurred in two of the first three months of this year. There was a 9.4% decrease in January and a 4% decrease in February. Traffic deaths went up by nearly 4% in March.

The decline in traffic fatalities came despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled. Historically, highway traffic deaths tend to go up when motorists log more miles on the roadways. So far this year, vehicle miles traveled have increased slightly, by 0.6%. Consequently, the fatality rate – the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled – dropped to 1.13 compared to 1.18 in the first quarter of last year.

“We’re encouraged to see traffic fatalities continue to decline, but more work must be done to reduce these preventable tragedies on our roads,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said in a statement. “NHTSA is working diligently to save lives and ensure our roads are safe for everyone inside and outside of vehicles.”

Geographically, traffic fatalities were down in most parts of the country, with six of 10 regions reporting a decrease, including 30 states.

Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas) reported the largest decrease, at 12%. Region 2 (New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) had the largest increase, at 6%. There was no change in Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington).

Broken down by state, Rhodes Island experienced the largest drop in traffic fatalities as a percentage change compared to the previous year. Deaths on highways in the Ocean State dropped from 24 in the first quarter of 2023 to nine this year, a 62.5% decline. Meanwhile in Maine, traffic deaths more than doubled from 14 to 29, the largest percentage increase in the nation. Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate, at 0.5, while Mississippi had the highest rate, at 1.9.

A decrease in traffic fatalities during the first quarter of this year marked the eighth consecutive quarterly decline. However, deaths along the highways were still up significantly compared to a decade earlier. The 8,650 traffic deaths this year were more than 26% higher than the 6,856 deaths reported in the first quarter of 2014. During that quarter, the fatality rate was only 0.99, the lowest rate among all quarters in the past 10 years.

NHTSA’s first quarter early estimates include only the number of total traffic fatalities and are not broken down by vehicle type, occupants or crash factors. Numbers for 2023 and 2024 are only projections, with more complete data for 2023 expected later this year. Data for the first quarter of 2024 will be revised when projections for the first six months are released in late September. LL

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