The number of fatal traffic accidents is down slightly so far this year, according to preliminary estimates by the National Safety Council, or NSC, a group that has been tracking fatality trends for nearly 100 years.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the U.S. is still recovering from the steepest two-year increase in the estimate since 1964. According to the NSC, nearly 40,000 people were killed on America's roadways last year. That represented a 6-percent increase over 2015 numbers and the largest two-year increase in over 50 years.
The group just issued preliminary numbers on motor vehicle deaths so far this year. For the first half of the year, the number of traffic fatalities is down by about 1 percent over the same period last year -- but the second half of the year tends to be deadlier than the first.
Unfortunately, the death rate is still 8 percent higher than in the first six months of 2015. So far, the NSC estimates that 18,680 people have died on America's roads this year. An estimated 2.1 million have been seriously injured. The group puts the financial cost of those deaths and injuries at around $191 billion. The human cost is far harder to calculate.
"The price of our cultural complacency is more than a hundred fatalities each day," said the NSC's president and CEO. "Although the numbers may be leveling off, the Road to Zero deaths will require accelerating improvements in technology, engaging drivers and investing in our infrastructure."
What factors could have created the two-year jump in fatalities? The NSC points to an improved economy and lower gas prices, which together meant drivers spent more time on the road. There was a 1.7-percent increase in the number of miles driven by U.S. motorists between 2016 and 2017.
Was the steep two-year increase an isolated phenomenon, or will we continue to see increases in traffic fatalities? Unfortunately, the NSC does not know. What we do know is that everyone concerned needs to take a great deal more care on the road.
If you have been injured in a traffic crash -- or if you have lost a loved one -- you probably have questions. We urge you to seek out a personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your situation and help you find the answers you need.