U.S. traffic deaths fell by 4.2% during the first half of 2013, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reversing an unexpected upward surge the previous year.
The federal safety agency still estimated that 15,470 people died in all forms of motor vehicle crashes between January 1 and June 30, though that was down from the 16,150 fatalities reported during the first half of 2012. Some states, such as Ohio, are on track to have their lowest death tolls since record keeping began on a per-mile basis.
Measured in terms of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, the rate for the first six months of the year dipped to 1.06, down from 1.10 fatalities during the first half of 2012.
There had been some concern that the total fatality count might rise as the economy recovers, a traditional pattern that reflects more Americans taking to the road – particularly during the dangerous rush hour periods. Government and industry officials are studying the surprising reversal to see what has contributed, instead, to the decline in deaths.