The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2020 shows that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents an estimated increase of about 7.2% as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.
Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2020 decreased by about 430.2 billion miles—about a 13.2% decrease. The fatality rate for 2020 was 1.37 fatalities per 100 million VMT, up from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2019. The projected fatality rate for 2020 would be the greatest since 2007.
For the third and fourth quarters of 2020, fatalities are projected to be greater than the corresponding quarters in 2019. Also, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in all four quarters of 2020 is much greater than the corresponding quarters of 2019.
All 10 NHTSA Regions are estimated to have increases in fatalities and the fatality rate per 100 million VMT in 2020 as compared to 2019.
The fatality counts for 2019 and 2020 and the ensuing percentage change from 2019 to 2020 will be further revised as the final file for 2019 and the annual reporting file for 2020 are available later this year. These estimates may be further refined when the projections for the first quarter of 2021 are released in late spring of 2021.
The data used in this analysis comes from several sources: NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), Early Notification (EN) data, and Monthly Fatal- ity Counts (MFC); and from FHWA’s VMT estimates. FARS is a census of fatal traffic crashes in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. To be included in FARS, a crash must involve a motor vehicle traveling on a trafficway and must result in the death of at least one person (occupant of a vehicle or a nonoccupant) within 30 days of the crash.