Statement on 2018 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes

  • October 23, 2019
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 202-408-1711 / 301-442-2249 (C) 


Statement of Cathy Chase,

President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,

On 2018 Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes


36,560 people killed in 2018 according to new government data —

Increased fatalities involving pedestrians, pedalcyclists and large trucks


The latest motor vehicle crash fatalities report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) underscores the need for state and federal officials to swiftly advance lifesaving traffic safety laws and proven technologies.  Despite a 2.4 percent decrease in overall deaths from 2017, crashes still remain egregiously high and claim the lives of approximately 100 people each day on average.  This level of carnage on our roadways is unacceptable and must be addressed with urgency.

Tragically, fatalities involving pedestrians and pedalcyclists increased by 3.4 percent and 6.3 percent respectively in 2018, reaching their highest levels since 1990.  To address this disturbing trend, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges NHTSA to require lifesaving advanced crash avoidance technologies, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), in every new car and to set minimum performance standards.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has conducted compelling research demonstrating the effectiveness of these technologies, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued recommendations in different reports calling for advanced technologies in all new vehicles.  Moreover, NHTSA should direct design changes to make vehicles more forgiving in crashes with vulnerable road users.  Vehicles can be designed, specifically on their front end, to reduce the severity of impact with a pedestrian or bicyclist.

Just last week, Advocates called for immediate upgrades to the U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to incentivize these and other essential safety improvements in new vehicles.   While NHTSA issued a statement the day before our press conference announcing the agency will propose “major upgrades” to NCAP in 2020, today’s release of fatality figures enhances our resolve to press for immediate action, including Congress directing the Agency to add these important features to NCAP and to require the issuance of final rules to assure these safety enhancements are required as standard equipment in all new cars.

The NHTSA data also showed that more than 10,500 people were killed in drunk driving crashes.  Advocates supports current efforts in several states to enact .05 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) laws and urges all states to consider this important action.  Moreover, Advocates calls on Congress to pass legislation which has the potential to eradicate alcohol-impaired driving through the use of passive alcohol detection technology.  We commend Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) and Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) for their leadership on this critical issue by introducing the RIDE Act of 2019 (S. 2604) and the HALT Drunk Driving Act of 2019 (H.R. 4354), respectively.

Furthermore, large truck crash fatalities again increased in 2018, claiming 4,951 lives.  Advocates strongly supports bills pending in Congress to help obviate this crisis on our roadways by: requiring crash avoidance technology in new large trucks (Safe Roads Act of 2019, H.R. 3773); preventing horrific underride crashes through the use of comprehensive underride protection (Stop Underrides Act, S. 665/H.R. 1511); and, curbing the dangers associated with speeding trucks (Cullum Owings Large Truck Safe Operating Speed Act of 2019, S. 2033).

Lastly, the NHTSA report notes that nearly half of all fatal passenger vehicle occupants are unbelted (47 percent).  Yet, the U.S. Department of Transportation has not issued the Congressionally mandated rear seat belt reminder rule which was due in 2015.  Moreover, 31 states are lacking a primary enforcement seat belt law for all occupants.  Advocates’ 2019 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws rates each state on seat belt and other essential safety laws shown to prevent crashes, deaths and injuries on our roadways.  As state legislatures begin strategizing about the upcoming 2020 session, Advocates urges them to prioritize advancing bills which will eliminate deadly gaps in their laws.

The new 2018 data shows that significant progress toward reducing crashes has slowed to a crawl.  Fortunately, known solutions, including enacting state traffic safety laws and requiring effective safety technologies in all new vehicles, offer an immediate path toward curbing preventable crash deaths, injuries and costs.  With each passing moment of inaction, lives are hanging in the balance.