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Fewer Traffic Deaths but Pedestrian and Cyclist Fatalities Rising: NHTSA

March 13, 2020
2 mins
Older gentleman driving and happily chatting with his passenger

Although it is never an uplifting read, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) annual data on fatal car crashes in the U.S. offers a glimmer of hope: there were fewer traffic-related deaths in 2018 than in 2017.

A total of 36,560 Americans died in car crashes in 2018, marking a 2.4% decrease from 2017 when 37,473 people died in collisions. That’s noteworthy for the simple fact the NHTSA’s data before 2016 showed traffic fatalities were up by a significant rate.

It also highlights that despite your best effort to drive defensively every time you get behind the wheel, doing so is fraught with risk and potentially lethal. There are, after all, distracted drivers all around us.

Pedestrian and Cyclist Fatalities on the Climb

Although there were fewer fatalities in 2018 compared to 2017, there were increases in deaths in urban centres involving pedestrians (3.4%) and cyclists (6.3%). Therein lies a troubling trend. Comparing the NHTSA’s data from 2010 to 2018 shows a 46% increase in pedestrian deaths and a 38% rise in cyclist fatalities.

Which begs the question if our penchant for SUVs, pickup trucks, and cars with high horsepower-to-weight ratios have anything to do with those grim results? Possibly. Though those vehicle types are among the most popular Canadians buy, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs increased by 81% between 2009 and 2016.

What about the people within the vehicle being driven? Are SUVs and pickup trucks safer for drivers and their passengers than cars? It depends. Comparing data from 1975 to 2018, the IIHS found car occupant deaths have decreased by 49%, while pickup occupant deaths increased by 19%, and SUV occupant deaths are up by more than 10 times over the same period.

Vehicle safety technologies, meanwhile, are designed to make our roads safer for all. Still, there are differing points-of-view on whether or not whether so-called driver-assist technologies are truly effective in curbing collisions.

How Does an Accident Affect Your Auto Insurance?

It’s safe to say if you are in a collision, your auto insurance premium will rise significantly. If you’re considered a high-risk driver because of your driving record and past traffic infractions, that too will increase your car insurance costs.

Regardless of the type of vehicle you own, drive according to road conditions and drive defensively – especially in urban areas where there are higher numbers of pedestrians and cyclists. Also, steer clear of toying with a mobile device while you’re driving. There isn’t a text, email, or phone call that’s so important that you should endanger your or anyone else’s life.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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