Preliminary Monthly Estimates

Monthly Preliminary Motor-Vehicle Fatality Estimates – March 2020


Motor-vehicle deaths down in March but the mileage death rate is up

Because of COVID-19 related impacts, the number of miles driven in the first three months of 2020 decreased 5.4% compared to 2019. The number of miles driven in March 2020 decreased 18.6% compared to March 2019. Deaths for 2020 to date total 8,460. This preliminary estimate is up 2% compared to the first three months of 2019. Motor-vehicle deaths in March 2020 totaled 2,690. This preliminary estimate is down 8% from March 2019. However, because of the large decrease in miles driven, the monthly mileage death rates increased 14% compared to March 2019. This increase is in spite of the 8% decrease in deaths. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven for March 2020 is 1.22, compared to 1.07 in 2019.

Mileage source: Federal Highway Administration

The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage through March was $95.4 billion, a 4% increase from 2019.

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  • Data Table

Through March, motor-vehicle deaths in 2020 decreased by more than 20 in five states compared to the first three months last year:

  • Wyoming (-28 deaths, -80%)
  • South Carolina (-25 deaths, -12%)
  • Oregon (-24 deaths, -24%)
  • Michigan (-24 deaths, -12%)
  • Washington (-23 deaths, -19%)

Five states experienced an increases of more than 20 deaths:

  • California (+52 deaths, +8%)
  • Texas (+48 deaths, +6%)
  • Louisiana (+32 deaths, +23%)
  • North Carolina (+29 deaths, +10%)
  • New York (+22 deaths, +17%)

The line chart below compares the 2020 monthly fatality trends against the 2019 trends through March. In March, 31 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer deaths compared to March 2019 preliminary reports, three states reported no change, and 16 states reported more deaths this March than last March. Please use the data table to view detailed state preliminary estimates.

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  • Data Table
How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables

How NSC Calculates Crash Fatality Estimates

The National Safety Council (NSC) collects preliminary motor-vehicle fatality estimates from data reporters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. State data reporters generally work in state Department of Transportation offices and are often the same individuals responsible for providing data to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Each month, state data reporters provide a first estimate for the previous month’s fatalities and updated estimates for all previously reported months.

NSC maintains a three-year database of all state motor-vehicle fatality estimate reports. Using January as an example, the NSC database includes the January estimate first reported in February, as well as any updated January estimates reported in March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, and a final updated estimate collected in August of the following year.

Fatality estimates tend to mature over the course of the year. Numbers often increase as fatalities are confirmed. Because of the maturation of the data, NSC calculates year-to-year percent change estimates by comparing monthly motor-vehicle estimates of comparable maturity.

To calculate national fatality estimates, percent change estimates are multiplied by the most recently available final motor-vehicle fatality estimates reported by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Therefore, NSC estimates reflect the NCHS definition of motor-vehicle fatalities as both traffic and non-traffic deaths that occur within a year of the incident. Since NHTSA counts only traffic deaths that occur within 30 days of the incident, NSC motor-vehicle fatality estimates are not comparable to NHTSA figures.

All state level data is displayed as reported by each state. All fatality estimates are preliminary. To ensure proper comparisons, 2019 state fatality estimates are preliminary figures covering the same reporting period as those for 2020. In other words, preliminary 2020 estimates are compared to preliminary 2019 estimates, even if updated estimates are available.