Preliminary Monthly Estimates

Monthly Preliminary Motor-Vehicle Fatality Estimates – December 2020

December motor-vehicle deaths up 8% from last year

Because of COVID-19-related impacts, the number of miles driven in 2020 decreased 13.2% compared to 2019. The number of miles driven in December 2020 decreased 10.3% compared to December 2019. Deaths for 2020 are estimated to be 42,060. This preliminary estimate is up 8% compared to 2019. Motor-vehicle deaths in December 2020 totaled 3,500. This preliminary estimate is up 8% from December 2019. December marks the seventh consecutive monthly increase following three straight months of decreases during the COVID-19-related shutdowns. The increasing deaths combined with the large decrease in miles driven results in a monthly mileage death rate increase of 20.2% compared to December 2019. The mileage death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven for December 2020 is 1.43, compared to 1.19 in 2019.

Mileage source: Federal Highway Administration

The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage through December 2020 was $474 billion.

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In December 2020, motor-vehicle deaths decreased by 10 or more in three states compared to December last year:

  • Louisiana (-13 deaths, -21%)
  • Nebraska (-11 deaths, -55%)
  • Oregon (-10 deaths, -30%)

Ten states experienced an increase of more than 10 deaths:

  • Texas (+47 deaths, +15%)
  • Georgia (+44 deaths, +41%)
  • Alabama (+30 deaths, +56%)
  • Illinois (+22 deaths, +36%)
  • California (+19 deaths, +9%)
  • North Carolina (+17 deaths, +15%)
  • Kentucky (+17 deaths, +35%)
  • Arizona (+17 deaths, +29%)
  • West Virginia (+12 deaths, +71%)
  • Connecticut (+12 deaths, +100%)

The line chart compares the 2020 monthly fatality trends against the 2019 trends. In December 2020, 18 states and the District of Columbia reported fewer deaths compared to December 2019 preliminary reports, Maine reported no change, and 30 states reported more deaths in December 2020 than last December. Please use the data table to view detailed state preliminary estimates.

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How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables
NSC preliminary motor vehicle fatality estimates do not include U.S. territories.

How the National Safety Council 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, and December.

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 are 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.

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