Estimated 35,200 US traffic deaths reported in 2013

The National Safety Council estimated that during 2013, 35,200 people died in US traffic accidents, plus there were about 3.8 million crash injuries requiring medical attention. An agency official blamed most of the accidents on human error.

Mike Blake/Reuters
Automobile traffic backs-up as it travels north from San Diego to Los Angeles along Interstate Highway 5 in California on Dec. 10, 2013. The National Safety Council reported that about 35,200 traffic deaths occurred in 2013, about a three percent decrease from the previous year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won't release official numbers on 2013 U.S. traffic fatalities until the end of the year, but early estimates from the National Safety Council show a three percent drop from 2012's stats. Unfortunately, that news isn't as great as it might seem.

The NSC is a century-old nonprofit that was chartered by the U.S. Congress and given a mission " to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy". NSC gathers data on traffic accidents from authorities in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia.

As far as fatality stats go, NHTSA and NSC differ dramatically in their approaches. NHTSA only counts accidents that happen on public roads, but NSC also includes accidents that occur on private property. Though there are reasons behind both methodologies, many sticklers prefer NSC's.

NSC data may also be more accurate because it considers deaths that occur within one year of a traffic accident to be related to that accident, whereas NHTSA's window is only 30 days. In other words, if you were in an accident and hit someone, and that someone died after spending four months in the hospital, NSC would consider the death to be a traffic fatality, while NHTSA would not.

2012 vs. 2013

By all accounts, 2012 was a terrible year for auto accidents. NSC attributes the increase in injuries and deaths to 2012's mild winter, which encouraged motorists to do more traveling during the chilly months -- and of course, more traveling means more opportunities for accidents.

For 2013, NSC's preliminary report identifies around 3.8 million injuries related to traffic collisions. (For statistical purposes, NSC only counts injuries that require medical attention.) That's about two percent below 2012 figures.

NSC also estimates some 35,200 auto-related deaths occurred in 2013. The good news is that that's three percent fewer than in 2012. The bad news? It's one percent higher than 2011. 

The auto-related fatalities, injuries, and property damage that occurred in 2013 came with a high price tag. When you add up all the medical expenses, employer costs, lost wages, property damage, and related expenses, the total clocks in at $267.5 billion. As high as that is, though, it's still three percent lower than 2012.

Bottom line: Auto fatalities and injuries may be leveling off in the U.S. Stats may not improve dramatically until advanced safety systems like automated braking and adaptive cruise control roll out to the broader public. Further down the line, as vehicle-to-vehicle systems become commonplace, though, we could see as many as 81 percent fewer accidents on the roads. That's something to look forward to.

___________________________________________

Follow The Car Connection on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.