North Dakota Marks 15-Year Low in Highway Fatalities

According to finalized data released by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol on February 19, a total of 100 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in North Dakota in 2019 – the lowest number of motor vehicle crash fatalities in 15 years, the organizations said.

[Above photo by the North Dakota DOT.]

“Traffic fatalities have been on a downward trend since 2012,” said Bill Panos, director of the North Dakota DOT, in a statement.

Bill Panos

Vision Zero continues to work toward the goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries on North Dakota roads because even one fatality is too many,” he added.

The agency noted that preventable behavior-related factors – such as not wearing a seat belt, alcohol, and speed – are some of the largest contributors to motor vehicle fatalities in North Dakota. Of the 100 fatalities that occurred in the state in 2019, 47 were not wearing their seat belt, 42 were alcohol-related, and 24 were speed-related, it said.

[Editor’s note: reducing highway fatalities is one of the main emphasis areas of Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, during his one-year term as president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.]

North Dakota’s numbers reflect an ongoing national decline in highway fatalities, even as vehicle miles traveled or VMT continues to increase.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted on December 20 that highway crash fatalities for the first nine months of 2019 declined by 2.2 percent compared to the first nine months of 2018; a trend that made the third quarter of 2019 the eighth consecutive year-to-year quarterly decline in fatalities since the fourth quarter of 2017.

Photo via Wikipedia

That corresponds to a year-over-year decline in fatalities the agency noted from 2017 to 2018.

Concurrently, preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration indicated that VMT during the first nine months of 2019 increased by approximately 24 billion miles, or roughly one percent, versus the same period in 2018.

As a result, the fatality rate for the first nine months of 2019 decreased to 1.10 fatalities per 100 million VMT, down from the 1.13 fatalities in the first nine months of 2018, NHTSA said.

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