Deaths per million miles
According to data released by the NHTSA, there's fewer fatalities on America's roads. Fatalities have been on the decline in the U.S., reaching an all-time low in 2011, but that direction reversed last year. Analysts expect to see an increase in roadway deaths of 8.2% which is higher than initial estimates, but lower than first fears.
That's the lousy news. The good news is that although numbers for 2012 likely won't be released until December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already predicting figures for 2013. If NHTSA's predictions are accurate, they'll bring the U.S. fatality rate back to near-historic lows.
In the first six months of 2013, 15,470 people died on America's roadways -- slightly more than the 14,924 fatalities recorded in the first six months of 2011, but fewer than the 16,150 estimated for the same period in 2012.
And it's not just total fatalities that are dropping: the fatality rate has fallen in 2013, too. In 2011, the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tied 2010's all-time low of 1.04. For 2012, that number is expected to climb to 1.10, but estimates for 2013 see a decrease to around 1.06. Yes, that's higher than 2010 and 2011, but it's still significantly lower than most previous years: in 2009, for example, the figure was 1.13, and in 2005, 1.37.
The drop in the fatality rate is made even more remarkable by the fact that Americans are driving less. If VMT were climbing and the number of fatalities stayed about the same, we'd expect to see fatality rates fall, since all those extra miles would dilute the number of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled. To see the fatality rate fall at the same time that VMT is falling? That's unexpected.