Monthly Preliminary Motor-Vehicle Fatality Estimates – September 2023
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 had on motor-vehicle fatality trends was dramatic and distinctly different from previous recession periods. First, the impact on the number of deaths has occurred very rapidly; decreasing 3% in March 2020 and 17% in April 2020. Starting in June 2020, we saw trends rapidly reversing, with a 16% increase compared to the previous year. During the summer months of 2021, the rapid increase in the number of deaths plateaued, increasing only 1% on average per month. Currently, September 2023 mileage is up 0.9% compared to 2022. With the increase in mileage combined with a decrease in the number of deaths, the September 2023 death rate decreased 5.8% compared to September 2022.
- Data Table
Source: Death data from 1999 through 2021 are from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Preliminary death counts in 2022 and 2023 are National Safety Council (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.