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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatalities on America's highways is at its lowest level since 1950. The number of deaths in vehicle collisions last year fell by 9.2 percent compared to 2008. As of 2009, the fatality rate has dropped to 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. NHTSA says the decrease is largely thanks to increased seat belt use and effective campaigns against drunk driving.

Interestingly enough, The Detroit News is also reporting that nationally, the number of motorcycle fatalities decreased by 16 percent compared to 2009. That fall is the first such drop in over ten years, though no one is offering an explanation for those numbers.

Despite the relatively rosy outlook, NHTSA also says that we still have a long way to go. Last year, more than 30,000 people died and over 2.4 million people were injured in traffic collisions. Be careful out there, people.

[Sources: Automotive News, The Detroit News | Image: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      You can argue and find different ways to prove American roads might be safer than european roads, but in the end we are talking about the number of deaths per year, because a human life is still a human life and not a statistic, even if the country is bigger.
      here in europe the number of deaths is still decreasing,even though we have higher speed limits on the highways and in the city and also a more dense usage of our roads, but also narrower streets and highway lanes. the number of deaths and accidents in traffic decrease even faster in north west Europe, that is due to a combination of factors which starts with, driving lessons, european driver are more skilled drivers than american drivers. on average you have already 200 hours of practice with an instructor before they hit the road on their own.
      we also have better signs and a better road warning systems and we banned cell phone use while driving years go.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is good news, however i'm sure it will change when the Volt hits the road with its Facebook app.
        • 4 Years Ago
        John H said what I was about to. Just because less people are dying doesn't mean less people are getting into accidents.

        Also, the decrease in motorcycle deaths could have something to do with the economy. Motorcycles tend to be for recreational use as opposed to being someone's main mode of transportation. Less people riding = less people dying.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is one of your more asinine assumptions...and that's saying something.

        Though I suppose one could read this as you're saying the Volt will sell in such vast numbers that it could have a substantial impact on statistics. Bravo.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you assumption were true, then the recent (as in, the past few years) use of texting and mobile internet applications should mean an increase in deaths. However, we see exactly the opposite trend.

        While one cannot conclude that such distractions make driving safer, we could at least say that it does not necessarily increase fatalities.

        Regardless, I believe it would be wise to continue to decrease the fatality rate using superior traffic management, through getting rid of red light and speed cameras, and adjusting all speed limits upward such that they reflect the 80th or so percentile of average traffic speed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Paul -- I disagree.

        We can't say that "it [texting/cell phones] does not necessarily increase fatalities."

        It is definitely possible for texting to cause traffic fatalities while the total number of traffic fatalities is falling. After all, perhaps the fatality number would have fallen *faster* if there were fewer texting/phoning drivers.

        This bit of data from the NTHS doesn't allow us to conclude anything about any *ONE* reason for fatalities. It only tells us that the overall trend is down, but not anything about why.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It says that traffic DEATHS have been reduced, not traffic ACCIDENTS, which I suspect are higher with today's distractions. I think cell phone use (especially texting) is still extremely dangerous, but that the likelihood of deaths has just been reduced with various safety mechanisms in modern cars. So while the risk of death due to texting might be offset somewhat by those mechanisms, it's still a stupid idea because you're still more likely to end up in an accident.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not so.
        Notwithstanding research that indicates cellphone use and/or texting is equivalent to drunk driving, apparently the decline in traffic deaths does not reflect the purported danger associated with cellphone use, texting, and indeed a Facebook app in a moving vehicle.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Safer cars, more traffic/slower travel, fewer deaths.
      As much as I hate cellphone use while driving, and texters should be shot on sight, such abuses apparently don't lead to traffic deaths.
        • 4 Years Ago
        except, you know, those texting caused deaths (proven by police using text time stamps) on news reports constantly.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Or they just don't lead to them enough to offset those advances you listed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That would be less than 1% of the total population - more like .8%. Which would be small, BTW. It is more significant when compared to the number of drivers, which is 196M.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I suspect all the MSF courses and incentives to take them are finally having an effect on cycle deaths. Huzzah!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Probably because nobody can afford to drive any more.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You all forget the advances in emergency medicine and the technology and skill of first responders. A decrease in deaths doesn't mean much if there is a significant increase in crippling injuries. I hope these misleading statistics make people complacent.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I meant to say:

        I hope these misleading statistics DON'T make people complacent.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I would say more than anything, safety upgrades on vehicles is the key. Anyone who drives on a regular basis knows drivers are not better than those of ten or twenty years ago. Accidents that were a sure death years ago now have airbags, crumple zones, support beams, etc. I would say the next most likely decline in deaths will be the wide spread use of blind spot detection systems, smart braking systems that can react to suddenly slowing traffic, and other systems that will prevent accidents in the first place. I hate seeing car prices go up, but if it makes the roads safer it is worth it. Thirty thousand deaths is drop in the bucket for a nation with hundreds of millions of drivers, but if it is your family that avoids or survives an accident, that extra cost should seem worth it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Could all the armchair statisticians shut up please?

      The people that actually study these numbers for a living already told you why deaths are down; increased seatbelt use and a crackdown on drunk driving
        • 4 Years Ago
        "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Mark Twain
      • 4 Years Ago
      30.000 Killed in Traffic in one year? Thats a lot, isn't it? I think in here in Germany the number was 4000 (population 81 million).
        • 4 Years Ago
        The relevant number would be deaths per 100 million miles driven. The we're comparing the same statistics. My guess is that Germans drive fewer miles than we do given a great public transport system and a physically smaller country.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The fatality rate in Germany is 7.2 per billion vehicle-km, versus 8.5 in the US. That makes the US fatality rate 18% higher, which is probably due to factors such as vehicle mix and laxer licensing in the US. That said, the German fatality rate is 41% higher than Sweden.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have to look at it as # of deaths per 100K miles travelled to get a more fair comparison. And even then, it's comparing apples to oranges. In the US, 16 year olds can drive, so this will definitely increase fatalities, as they are not very good/careful drivers. Average speed might play a role. In the cities, people can't drive very fast in Germany due to narrow roads/traffic, while in the US traffic conjestion is not as bad. Then you have other factors that can skew the results (eg hitting dear, I have a couple of friends that died that way, different weather conditions, ever tried driving in a northeastern blizzard?)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think I drive so much I'm desensitized to the danger of driving.

      It should, realistically, SCARE THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF ME.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I can remember when that number used to be slightly over 50,000 per year in a population almost half as large.

      Cars are much safer today. The price has been a tenfold increase in costs per car. But that is a choice that a wealthy nation can choose to make, and has.
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