Monthly Preliminary Motor-Vehicle Fatality Estimates – August 2021
Typically, motor-vehicle deaths display a distinct, seasonal pattern with peaks occurring in summer and fall, and the fewest deaths occurring in February. This seasonal trend is strongly influenced by a similar mileage trend (more miles traveled in summer and fewer miles traveled in winter). Death rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled also tend to be highest in the summer and fall and lowest in the winter, particularly in February.
During and following the great recession of 2008 and 2009, mileage, deaths, and death rates per 100 million miles traveled all decreased. These decreases occurred gradually over months and years. The lowest number of deaths, miles driven, and death rates did not occur until February 2010, well after the recession ended.
The impact that COVID-19 is having on motor-vehicle fatality trends is dramatic and distinctly different from previous recession periods. First, the impact on the number of deaths has occurred very rapidly; decreasing 6% in March 2020 and 18% in April 2020. Starting in June 2020, we started seeing trends rapidly reversing, with a 17% increase compared to the previous year. Since June 2020, only February 2021 and July 2021 showed year-over-year decreases. Second, the death rate has substantially increased; a 24% increase in 2020 compared to the previous year. The increasing death rate was partially a byproduct of an unprecedented decrease in the number of miles traveled; mileage in 2020 was down nearly 13% compared to 2019. Now with the country starting to open back up, August mileage is up 8.3% compared to 2020, but is still down 4.5% compared to pre-pandemic 2019. With the increasing mileage, the August death rate decreased 4.8% compared to August 2020.
View the monthly motor-vehicle historic trends by playing the animation. Use the forward button to auto-advance the animation, the back button to go back, and the stop button to pause. You can also use the scroll bar above the buttons to fill in the chart to your desired point in time; dragging the scroll bar all the way right brings the timeline to the present. Use the “Select Month” filter to explore historic trends by month.
- Data Table
Death data from 1999 through 2019 are from NCHS. Preliminary death counts starting in 2020 are NSC estimates. Motor-vehicle rates are based on mileage estimates from the Federal Highway Administration. Recession periods are from the National Bureau of Economic Research.