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Since 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been recording the number of fatalities on U.S. roadways, and with the exception of 1992, that figure has never dropped below 40,000 deaths per year. According to NHTSA's new figures, that changed in 2008, when 37,261 fatalities occurred in the U.S. – a drop of nearly 10% over the previous year and the largest reduction in both number and percentage since 1982.

The majority of that reduction came from passenger vehicles, with light truck fatalities dropping for the third consecutive year. However, the reduction hasn't taken place across the board – motorcycle fatalities continue their upwards trajectory with 5,290 riders meeting their demise on the road, comprising 14% of all roadway fatalities and continuing an eleven-year increase. Naturally, injuries were down as well, with 2.35 million people involved in crashes in 2008 compared to 2.49 in 2007, and the metric of 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) was also down to 1.27 in 2008, compared to 1.36 the previous year.

You can check out NHTSA's full report here (Warning: PDF) and get a full breakdown on the stats from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety here.

[Source: NHTSA, IIHS | Image: Gabriel Bouys/Getty/AFP]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's completely due to the recession; people drive less when they're broke, take public transportation more often when they're broke. What's that? Motorcycle deaths unlike care were still up? It's cheaper to operate a motorcycle, so again, another economic factor. Make gas $10 a gallon and these figures would drop 80% (make gas $10 a gallon and I would be pissed too, I'm not an eco-hippie, but facts are facts).
        • 5 Years Ago
        You can't say it's completely due to the recession, because the rate per million miles driven has been dropping, too. Some of it at least is due to better cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd be curious to know how many of those motorcycle deaths were single rider accidents - ie. No car, truck, etc involved in the accident. I'm thinking the majority were probably related to the rider but I wouldn't be surprised if I were wrong and a large number were related to absent minded idiots sitting in their cage, texting and not bothering to look for cycles.


      ..uhm, yeah, I ride. :-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah I was thinking about buying a motorcycle, but then I thought about how often I fall off my regular bike. Add 40mph to that and throw in a bunch of idiots on the road who don't bother checking for anything smaller than their 4,000lb SUV when changing lanes, and I figured my days would probably be numbered.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe it's because there are fewer '59 Bel-Airs on the road...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Agreed @jv2k. I also believe that there may be certain idiots no longer on the road.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Actually either way you look at it. The title should show lowest level since 1961.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So does that mean insurance rates can go down now? Please?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just because you're not dead doesn't mean your $40,000 Taurus isn't still totalled. If you want lower rates you'll probably do better driving a cheaper car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So we go from 3M to 2M people injured per 100M VMT, or 2% of the time.

      19% of the total killed are passenger cars, for that we 'ALL' lug around the 15 air bags, anti lock brakes, side impact beam and what ever else the whatever else the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety want us to install just to lower the insurance pay out. Seems like they should spend more time adding 'safty' weight on the other 81% of non-passengers cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      37,261 deaths is still alot compared to Airline & Train travel. 2.35 Million collisions?
      wow, not very efficient our most used mode of travel from A to B.

      How much product moves through a typical manufacturing plant? I'm pretty sure we can engineer these statistics to six sigma quality. We just have to fix the obvious defect - the steering wheel.

      Any how, I'd love to see auto insurance companies & traffic courts go out of business.
      That would be truly priceless

        • 5 Years Ago
        See: Will Smith's Audi in iRobot
      • 5 Years Ago
      pretty predictable. As car safety goes up and fewer older, less safe cars are on the road, fatalities will continue to drop. Motorcycle deaths will continue to rise with the total rider population since there hasn't been any significant change in motorcycle safety nor will there ever be.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Don't be so sure...maybe the equipment will not come on a bike, but actually will be riding apparel. They are working on some airbag type devices in jackets and there is already armor. But it is an uphill climb for us motorcycle guys. The best equipment always has been and always will be a skilled, knowledgeable rider.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Less drivers due to unemployment and job losses equalls less accidents, wonder what the rate in China is since there 1000 news drivers on the road everyday according to Autoline After Hours.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well less people are driving as much as they used to and cars are safer than ever so it's about time the number of deaths went down.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Crappy economy keeping young males off the road. Nothing to see here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I see a lot more accidents involving younger people than I do older people.
        • 5 Years Ago
        not quite
        most of the people layed off were about to retire
        so it's the old bums that don't know how to drive safely (follow speed of traffic) that are off the road causing us younger people to rage out and likely increase our chances of getting into an accident
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