New Statistics on Traffic Crashes, Seat Belt Use & More

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducts in depth studies on transportation safety, and what factors contribute to the safety of motorists on American highways. The NHTSA takes great care in reviewing and analyzing the statistics before releasing their reports. Here are some interesting findings from recent years on traffic and motorist safety.

Early Estimate of Traffic Fatalities — First Quarter 2013

Preliminary studies on traffic fatalities in the first quarter of 2013 show:

  • An approximately 4.4% decrease in the number of fatalities from traffic crashes in 2012, from 7,530 fatalities in 2012's first quarter to 7,200 in 2013's first quarter.
  • The vehicle miles traveled in this time as compared to the first three months of 2012 decreased about 0.8%.

The full report on traffic fatality statistics for 2013 will be available in 2015.

Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for January–September 2012

When compared to the first nine months of 2011:

  • Traffic crash fatalities increased 7.1% in the first nine months of 2012, with approximately 25,580 deaths from car accidents between January and September of 2012.
  • There had been a decreasing trend for the last 17 quarters, with each quarter showing less traffic fatalities than the previous, until 2012 when the numbers seem to steadily increase.

Because not all the statistics are in yet, it is too early to say conclusively what is contributing to this trend. However, the total number of miles traveled by Americans in the first nine months of 2012 increased by 14.2 billion miles as compared to 2011.

This could mean that one contributing factor is that Americans are driving more as gas prices remain steady and Americans have to worry less about gas mileage. The NHTSA estimates the completed report will be available in 2014.

2011 Seat Belt Use

The findings from the NHTSA on seatbelt safety have shown a correlation between the severity of seatbelt laws and the number of people who use seatbelts. In 2011, 17 states and the District of Columbia were able to get their seat belt use to over 90%.

  • Rhode Island and Wyoming showed the two largest improvements, with a 2.4% and 3.7% increase in seat belt use respectively, and both states introduced stricter seat belt laws in 2011.
  • The national average is at about 85%, with Massachusetts showing the lowest percentage of seat belt use at 73.2%.

2011 Lives Saved by Use of Restraint and Minimum Drinking Age Laws

The rise in seat belt use is definitely a good thing, as the NHTSA also found that the use of seat belts saved 11,949 lives in 2011, and between 2007–2011 seatbelts have saved almost 66,000 lives. Additional safety measures that have saved lives in 2011 include:

  • Frontal Airbags: 2,204 lives saved
  • Motorcycle Helmets: 1,617 lives saved
  • Child Safety Seats: 263 lives saved
  • 21-year-old Minimum Drinking Age Laws: 533 lives saved

The NHTSA also estimates that an additional 3,384 lives could have been saved if seatbelts had been in use at the time of a fatal crash.

2010 Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers Report

In 2010 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report on the number of traffic crashes that resulted in fatality where the driver tested positive for drugs other than alcohol. These drugs include narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabinoids, anabolic steroids, and inhalants.

The statistics on this report only include instances where drugs were found in the driver's system, and do not necessarily imply that the driver was impaired or caused the crash. These can be illegal drugs or over-the-counter and prescription medicine which may have been used in their intended manor. Not all fatally injured drivers are tested for drugs.

  • In 2009, 63% of fatally injured drivers were tested for drugs in their system.
  • Of those tested, 33% or 3,952 people tested positive for some sort of drug.
  • This equates to an estimated 18% of all fatally injured drivers having some sort of drug in their system, not including alcohol, at the time of the car accident. Driving Safety Articles: This article was written by defensive driving staff writers and reviewed for accuracy by defensive driving instructors. All articles are based on current traffic laws and defensive driving practices. This article is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as legal advice or literal interpretation of any specific traffic law.