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Traffic Deaths Fell in 2023

America’s roads grew a little safer last year – a welcome development after several years of increasing fatalities.

On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released traffic fatality numbers for 2023. The agency “estimates that 40,990 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2023, a decrease of about 3.6% as compared to 42,514 fatalities reported to have occurred in 2022.”

The fourth quarter of 2023, NHTSA says, marked “the seventh consecutive quarterly decline in fatalities beginning with the second quarter of 2022.”

Traffic deaths hit a two-decade high in the first quarter of 2022. Experts blamed everything from people speeding on emptier pandemic-era roads to more distraction from phones and higher drug use.

Related—Up: Distracted Driving Deaths, Drunk Driving Deaths, Unbelted Driving Deaths, Cyclist Deaths…

Automakers have embraced automated safety systems to bring more safety to new cars. Safety advocates say that approach has flaws, as automatic emergency braking and similar systems don’t work well at night or at highway speeds.

Policymakers have several tools available to try to get the death count under control. A recent law could require Breathalyzer-like technology in all new cars as soon as 2026. A more extreme proposal, not yet part of any law, would require automakers to build in speed governors that prevent speeding.

But NHTSA believes it can also help by focusing on roads themselves. The agency says it has “awarded $1.7 billion in funding to improve roadway safety at the local, regional, and tribal levels” through a “safe system approach” emphasizing better lighting, rumble strips, and bicycle lanes.

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