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Traffic deaths fall for second straight year

The number of people who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2023 decreased by 3.6 percent from the previous year, even as the estimated number of miles traveled increased, according to government data released Monday.

An estimated 40,990 people died in traffic-related motor vehicle crashes in 2023 — down from 42,514 in 2022.

At the same time, the number of miles traveled in 2023 increased by about 2.1 percent, or approximately 67.5 billion miles, according to preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration.

Last year marks the second consecutive year traffic fatalities have declined, after falling by 1.7 percent in 2022. The fourth quarter of 2023 also marked the seventh consecutive quarter that fatality rates decreased, beginning in the second quarter of 2022.

Before that point, the country was seeing a dramatic rise in traffic deaths. In 2021, fatalities increased by 10.8 percent, totaling 43,230 deaths. In 2020, fatalities increased by 7.3 percent, totaling 39,007. The previous year saw a minor dip in the fatality rate.

The release of the new data comes as government officials are trying to accelerate the declining trend in fatalities, with a newly rebranded campaign focused on combatting distracted driving.

The campaign is called “Put the Phone Away or Pay,” and it “reminds drivers of the deadly dangers and the legal consequences — including fines — of distracted driving,” according to a press release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“Distracted driving is extremely dangerous,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said in the press release. “Distraction comes in many forms, but it is also preventable. Our rebranded campaign reminds everyone to Put the Phone Away or Pay, because distracted driving can cost you in fines — or even cost your life or the life of someone else on the road.”

The “high-visibility enforcement” of distracted driving laws will take place Thursday through Monday, NHTSA said, and it will target drivers aged 18 to 34 because data suggests they are more likely to die in “distraction-affected crashes.”

The NHTSA campaign includes a $5 million national media ad buy on TV, radio and digital platforms. The ads will run through next Monday.

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