United States traffic deaths fell 2.4 per cent last year to 36,560, although the number of pedestrians killed rose to its highest level in nearly three decades, the US auto safety agency said on Tuesday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said traffic deaths fell for the second straight year - down 913 from 2017. The fatality rate fell by 3.4 per cent to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled, the lowest rate since 2014.
Despite the decrease in overall deaths, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities continue to rise, with deaths of those on foot climbing 3.4 per cent to 6,283 last year.
The number of people killed on roads while using bicycles and other non-motorised vehicles rose 6.3 per cent to 857.
More pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year than in any year since 1990. Deaths of pedestrians have jumped by 42 per cent in the last decade even as the combined number of all other traffic deaths has fallen by 8 per cent.
Auto safety experts say the growing number of drivers distracted by mobile devices is at least partly to blame. NHTSA said it is looking for ways to reduce fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists.
The Governors Highway Safety Association said in February the increasing shift in US vehicle sales away from passenger cars to light trucks is a factor in the rising number of deaths.
The group said the number of pedestrian fatalities involving sport utility vehicles increased at a faster rate - 50 per cent - from 2013 to 2017 compared with passenger cars, which increased by 30 per cent.
Earlier this month, the American Automobile Association said its research showed that automatic emergency braking systems designed to stop vehicles from striking pedestrians did not always work effectively and had a significantly higher failure rate at night.
Three-quarters of all pedestrian deaths take place at night, NHTSA said, while 38 per cent of pedestrians killed had some alcohol in their system and 74 per cent were not at intersections when struck.
NHTSA said last week it may include vehicle technologies tied to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists when it revises its five-star New Car Assessment Programme.
In 2017, the US had 6.4 million traffic crashes resulting in 2.7 million injuries reported to police agencies, according to a NHTSA report released last month.
Still, US roads are far safer than they were a half-century ago, when the fatality rate was nearly five times higher and more than 50,000 people died annually in crashes.