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It looks like traffic deaths in the U.S. dipped again in 2019.

Estimated fatalities declined 1% to 36,100, down 440, which would mark the third straight decrease, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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More Miles Driven

Travel by car in the U.S. last year grew 1% to 3.2 trillion miles. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicles miles driven declined to an estimated 1.10—which if verified would be the second-lowest ever recorded by the agency—from 1.13 in 2018.

The biggest improvement, an 8% decline in fatalities, came in the northeast corner of the country. There was no improvement in the central Midwest.

NHTSA estimates that traffic deaths last year shrank 1% for motorcyclists, 2% for pedestrians and 3% for bicyclists. Fatalities involving at least one large truck rose 1%.

The agency notes that last year’s death count is still 3,400 greater than in 2014. The fatality rate jumped by an alarming 8% in 2015 and 7% in 2016 before beginning to ebb again.

Not There Yet

The 4% improvement over the past three years obviously is a step in the right direction. But it pales to the 9%-plus reductions in 2009 and 2010. Fatalities on American roads during that period plunged by nearly 7,400.

NHTSA will update these numbers in several months as more data arrives. But the last word on 2019 won’t come until the end of this year, when NHTSA compiles its final figures for 2018.

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