Federal Highway Traffic Safety Policies: Impacts and Opportunities
In 2017, 37,133 Americans were killed in crashes involving motor vehicles. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for Americans overall, and the number one cause of death for teenagers. Millions of people are injured in crashes annually, and motor vehicle crashes are estimated to have cost some $242 billion in 2010 in lost productivity, medical costs, legal costs, property damage, and time lost in congestion caused by crashes. As measured by the number of deaths per mile people are driving, the rate at which people are killed in traffic crashes declined significantly from 1929, when records began to be kept, until 2014, but has risen by almost 10%
between 2014 and 2016.
Congress has played a role in improving highway safety. Making road travel safer was one of the responsibilities Congress gave to the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) when it created the department in 1966. Congress has directed DOT to improve the safety of automobile design and of road design, as well as to support programs to improve driver behavior.