Fatal traffic incidents dropped in the U.S. in 2023: NHTSA

Credit: IIHS

Fatal traffic incidents dropped in the U.S. last year, according to a U.S. safety regulator who reported initial 2023 estimates this week.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its early estimates for 2023 traffic fatalities on Monday, noting that they decreased by around 3.6 percent year over year. The regulator says roughly 40,990 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year, down from the 42,514 reported in 2022, and 43,230 in 2021.

Despite the decrease, the agency notes that motor accident fatalities still haven’t dropped back to pre-pandemic levels, with the lowest level of fatal traffic incidents in the past decade taking place in 2014 at a total of 32,744. Meanwhile, the fatality rate remained higher than any pre-pandemic year since 2008.

You can see a few charts from the recent NHTSA fatality report below.

Credit: NHTSA

Credit: NHTSA

Credit: NHTSA

For the first time, however, total miles driven in 2023 did outpace pre-pandemic levels, bringing the overall fatality rate down quite substantially compared to the past few years.

The 2023 rate of fatal incidents represented a fatality rate of 1.26 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), compared to 1.34, 1.38, and 1.33 in 2020, 2021, and 2022, respectively. The total VMT in 2023 increased by roughly 67.5 billion miles, marking a 2.1 percent increase from 2022.

In Q4 alone, the NHTSA also says the U.S. had the seventh consecutive quarterly decline in fatalities, starting with Q2 2022.

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The agency has also announced plans for a new program targeting distracted driving, based on data looking at 2022 that says around 3,308 people were killed, and 289,310 injured, by distracted drivers.

“Distracted driving is extremely dangerous,” said Sophie Shulman, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. “Distraction comes in many forms, but it is also preventable. Our rebranded campaign reminds everyone to Put the Phone Away or Pay, because distracted driving can cost you in fines – or even cost your life or the life of someone else on the road.”

The updates come as Tesla and others working toward autonomous driving aim to reduce fatal traffic incidents, with many expecting advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to eventually become safer than human drivers. The automaker also releases a quarterly vehicle safety report.

In Q4 2023, Tesla reported one crash for every 5.39 million miles driven in which drivers were using Autopilot, and one crash for every 1.00 million miles driven not using Autopilot in Tesla vehicles, compared to one every 670,000 in Q4 2022 reported by the NHTSA.

You can see the full NHTSA traffic fatalities report for 2023 here, along with a couple more images from the estimates below.

Credit: NHTSA

Credit: NHTSA

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Fatal traffic incidents dropped in the U.S. in 2023: NHTSA
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