Traffic deaths have declined slightly this year but are still higher than two years ago, according to preliminary estimates.
An estimated 18,000 people have been killed on U.S. roads since January, while 2.1 million were seriously injured, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
That’s about 1 percent lower than the first six months of 2016, but still 8 percent higher than the same period in 2015.
Safety advocates point out that traffic deaths spiked in 2016 at historic rates, so it’s still too early to tell whether that latest estimates could be the start of a significant downward trend or a leveling-off. They also note that there tend to be more road fatalities between July and December.
The safety council added the deaths and injuries have cost the U.S. an estimated $191 billion so far this year.
“The price of our cultural complacency is more than a hundred fatalities each day,” said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, in a statement. “Although the numbers may be leveling off, the Road to Zero deaths will require accelerating improvements in technology, engaging drivers and investing in our infrastructure.”
The previous all-time low for traffic deaths was set in 2011, but fatalities have since climbed at historic rates. The uptick has been attributed to an improving economy, lower gas prices, more miles being driven and an increase in distracted driving.
The National Transportation Safety Board also recently published a report that found speeding contributed to nearly as many road deaths as drunken driving between 2005 and 2014.