Flowers, candles and crash debris mark the spot of the fatal accident on the 4700 block of Olney-Laytonsville Rd. in Olney, MD. (Ricky Carioti – WASHINGTON POST)


Although it’s not clear what caused the decline, the National Safety Council reported Tuesday that there were fewer fatal vehicle crashes in the first six months of 2014 than during the same period last year.

The nonprofit council said preliminary numbers show 16,180 traffic fatalities between January and June, 4 percent fewer than in in 2013.

“Studies show that 90 percent of crashes involve driver error, including speeding, alcohol use and distractions,” said Deborah Hersman, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and now the president of the NSC.  “Although it’s encouraging to see a decrease in fatalities, the unfortunate fact remains that many of these crashes could have been prevented.”

A contributory factor to the decline may have been that the particularly frigid weather at the outset of the year kept some drivers off the road.

Combining the loss of life, lost wages and productivity, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage, the NSC estimated that crashes in the first six months of 2014 cost $123 billion.