U.S. traffic fatalities fall following two years of rising toll

WASHINGTON — Deaths on American roads fell by nearly 2 percent last year, blunting two years of increases that had troubled regulators and safety advocates.

A total of 37,133 people died in traffic crashes last year, down 1.8 percent from 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths involving pedestrians, drunk driving, speeding, bicyclists and motorcyclists all declined.

“The 1.8-percent decrease from 2016 to 2017 compares to the 6.5-percent increase from 2015 to 2016 and the 8.4-percent increase from 2014 and 2015,” the report said.

The rate of overall fatalities also declined to 1.16 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, even as Americans drove more. Total vehicle-miles-traveled increased 1.2 percent.

Standing out was a sharp increase in the number of deaths linked to crashes involving trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, which jumped 9 percent.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Ray Martinez told reporters that more analysis is needed to understand the cause of the increase. The figure includes crash deaths involving heavy-duty pickup trucks and other large vehicles in addition to tractor-trailers.

The downward trend appeared to continue during the first half of 2018, the report said.

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