NTSB calls for renewed road traffic safety efforts as nation reopens

Chairman says same resolve to stay safe from COVID-19 is needed on roadways

May 19, 2020
road traffic safety for drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on Americans to practice highway safety to the same degree they practice efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the nation continues to reopen.

NTSB says that in a typical year, more than 36,000 Americans are killed on the nation's roads. While it is too early to tell what will happen to highway crash and fatality trends in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, the desire to return to normality will increase the number of drivers on the road, thereby increasing risk for highway users.

“The number of traffic fatalities was a crisis before the pandemic,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a statement. “It has been inspiring to see Americans take dramatic steps to protect themselves and others during the coronavirus pandemic. We need the same resolve to stay safe when Americans increasingly take to the roads in the coming months.”

Sumwalt said four major ways for motorists and their passengers to keep safe include always buckling up, not speeding, not driving distracted, and not driving while impaired.

In 2018 there were 9,378 fatalities in crashes where at least one driver was speeding, which is 26% of total traffic fatalities for the year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving claimed 2,841 lives in 2018, according to NHTSA, and experts believe these numbers are underreported. Crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers account for more than one in four traffic fatalities. In 2018, 10,511 people died in crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50% among drivers and front seat passengers. Seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017, according to NHTSA.

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SOURCE: National Transportation Safety Board

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