Estimated traffic fatalities decreased in 2019 despite an increase in driving, according to a report from the NHTSA released on Wednesday.
There were projected to be 36,120 traffic fatalities in 2019, which is a 1.2% decrease from 2018. It marks the third consecutive year of declines from a post-recession high point of 37,806 traffic fatalities in 2016.
“Safety is our top priority so this report that traffic fatalities appear to have decreased again for the third year is great news,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
At the same time, the total number of vehicle miles traveled increased 0.9% in 2019.
Of the ten NHTSA regions across the country, only the southeastern part of the United States experienced an increase in traffic fatalities. While organizations such as the IIHS are touting the proliferation of driver assistance systems and standard safety technology for the decline in traffic fatalities, the NHTSA isn’t ready to cite a cause.
“It is too soon to speculate on the contributing factors or potential implications of any changes in deaths on our roadways,” the report said.
The preliminary data points to a promising trend, however. Pedestrians deaths decreased 2% in 2019, after hitting a 28-year high in 2018, when 6,227 pedestrians were killed, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The number of cyclist deaths also dropped 3% in 2019.
The estimates are based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, as well as other sources, and the NHTSA expects final numbers for 2019 to be released later this year.