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Between 2005 and 2011, the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. declined by 11,031, from 43,510 in 2005 to 32,479 in 2011. This decline amounted to a reduction in traffic-related deaths of 25.4 percent, by far the greatest decline over a comparable period in the last 30 years.

Historically, significant drops in traffic fatalities over a short period of time have coincided with economic recessions. Longer recessions have coincided with deeper declines in the number of traffic fatalities. This TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program's NCHRP Research Report 928: Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012 provides an analysis that identifies the specific factors in the economic decline that affected fatal crash risk, while taking into account the long-term factors that determine the level of traffic safety.

A key insight into the analysis of the factors that produced the sharp drop in traffic fatalities was that the young contributed disproportionately to the drop-off in traffic fatalities. Of the reduction in traffic fatalities from 2007 to 2011, people 25-years-old and younger accounted for nearly 48 percent of the drop, though they were only about 28 percent of total traffic fatalities prior to the decline. Traffic deaths among people 25-years-old and younger dropped substantially more than other groups. Young drivers are known to be a high-risk group and can be readily identified in the crash data. Other high-risk groups also likely contributed to the decline but they cannot be identified as well as age can.

Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25590.

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Publication Info

106 pages | 8.5 x 11 |  DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/25590

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