U.S. Traffic Fatality Rate Reverses 2-Year Rise

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. declined by 2% to 37,100 people in 2017, reversing increases of 8% in 2015 and 6% in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The overall improvement lowered the fatality rate by 3% to 1.16 per 100 million miles traveled, even as the total miles driven rose by 1%. NHTSA says the trend appears to have continued through the first half of this year.

Even so, the total number of fatalities in 2017 was the highest since 2008.

NHTSA reports declines last year in deaths related to speeding, drunk driving, pedestrians and cyclists. But the agency says fatalities involving the occupants of SUVs, medium-duty trucks and tractor-trailers rose 3%, 19% and 9%, respectively.

About half of those killed in crashes last year were not wearing safety belts. NHTSA says estimated belt use was unchanged at 90%.