In hard numbers, 2020 looks pretty good so far compared to 2019. The number of people who have died in motor vehicle traffic crashes was down from 16,988 in 2019 to 16,650 in 2020, a decrease of 2 percent. The trouble with relying on just one number is that those deaths hide the massive societal changes the world went through this spring (and is still going through) with the coronavirus.
When you factor in an important aspect of that change, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), you actually see that more people died this year, on average, than last year. That’s because VMT was down a dramatic 16.6 percent (or 264.2 billion miles) in the first six months of 2020, which pushed up the fatality rate per 100 million VMT, a metric the NHTSA uses to more accurately compare vehicle and road safety over time.