Road crashes declining, stats show

WASHINGTON — Bus and motorcoach fatalities increased 3.1 percent in 2017, according to new federal statistics. Most of those accidents were attributed to urban transit buses.

Motor vehicle accidents killed a 37,133 people in the U.S. last year, a decrease of 673 (1.8 percent) from 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported on Oct. 4. Total fatalities had increased in 2015 and 2016.

The statistics were released during a national telephone news conference held by NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The bus and motorcoach fatality total was not included in the published “Research Note” released by NHTSA but was cited as 234 by FMCSA Administrator Raymond Martinez in response to a question posed during the news conference.

“There were 227 the previous year—a slight variation. We know that was primarily from transit buses,” he said.

The statistics have yet to be analyzed sufficiently to separate the motorcoach results from the category total, Martinez said.

However, he said, “We have believed for a long time that the motorcoach industry is a safe way to travel. We believe the continued focus by the motorcoach industry itself in trying to maintain safety is a good thing. Clearly those numbers we hope would be zero. There is a commitment from the industry to drive those numbers down.”

Motorcoaches were involved in 16 of the 225 fatalities (7.1 percent) listed for buses and motorcoaches in the final totals for 2016, according to the FMCSA “2018 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics.” The document attributed the other deaths to school buses, 86; transit buses, 93; van-based buses, 6; and other or unknown buses, 24.

Martinez said the involvement of transit buses in the category totals reflect a larger trend of accidents occurring more frequently on urban streets. There were more fatalities, involving all vehicle categories, in urban areas than rural areas in 2016 and 2017, the first two years that has occurred since the government began tracking the data.

The overall decline in traffic fatalities was achieved despite a 1.2 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) last year.  As a result, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT decreased 2.5 percent last year to 1.16. The record low of 1.07 was set in 2014.

Fatalities declined last year in most vehicle segments except for large trucks and sports utility vehicles.

For accidents involving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, fatalities climbed 9.0 percent to 4,761. That total included 3,920 people who were not an operator or occupant of the truck.

SUV deaths increased 3.0 percent. The actual numbers were not listed in the report.

Fatality decreases were found in these categories: passenger cars occupants, 1.1 percent; van occupants, 5.8 percent; pickup truck occupants, 4.5 percent; motorcyclists, 3.1 percent; pedestrians, 1.7 percent; and pedalcyclists, 8.1 percent.

NTHSA also said alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 1.1 percent and deaths related to speeding fell 5.6 percent.

An early estimate of traffic fatalities data for the first six months of 2018 also were released and listed 17,664 deaths, a decrease of 3.1 percent from the first half of 2017. With an estimated 0.3 percent increase in miles traveled, the fatality rate was placed at 1.08 per 100 million VMT.

The 2018 estimates do not address vehicle types.

Share this post