The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released the findings of its 2010 national fatality and injury rate study. Last year, traffic fatalities fell to 32,885, marking the lowest level since 1949. The decline came despite the fact that American drivers covered 1.6 percent more ground than they did in 2009 by driving an additional 46 billion miles over the course of the year. In addition, 2010 carried the lowest fatality rate ever recorded by the federal agency with just 1.10 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. NHTSA attributes the decline to the agencies tireless efforts to push toward ever safer vehicles, though there are several factors at work here.

While fatalities declined in nearly every vehicle category, including minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks, 2010 also saw a decline in crashes involving drunk drivers. A total of 10,288 people passed away in those incidents, marking a decline of nearly five percent.

There were areas that saw an increase in fatalities, however. Specifically, 2010 was a bad year for pedestrians, motorcyclists and occupants of large trucks. Hit the jump for the full press release.
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U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Lowest Level Of Annual Traffic Fatalities In More Than Six Decades

Updated 2010 FARS data includes new measure of 'distraction-affected' fatalities; national attitude survey offers additional insight into problem of distracted driving

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced updated 2010 fatality and injury data showing that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 2009 level.

"While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we're making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation's roadways," said Secretary LaHood. "Thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partner organizations over the past few decades, to save lives and reduce injuries, we're saving lives, reducing injuries, and building the foundation for what we hope will be even greater success in the future."

The updated information released by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today indicates 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009. Other key statistics include:

· Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
· Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
· Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and large truck occupants.

New Measure of Fatalities Related to Distracted Driving

NHTSA also unveiled a new measure of fatalities related to distracted driving today, called "distraction-affected crashes." Introduced for 2010 as part of a broader effort by the agency to refine its data collection to get better information about the role of distraction in crashes, the new measure is designed to focus more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted. While NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle, the new measure focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction by an outside person/event. New data released today by NHTSA using its refined methodology show an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.

The NHTSA effort to refine distraction data is similar to a step taken with alcohol information in FARS data for 2006. Prior to 2006, FARS reported "alcohol-related crashes," which was defined as crashes in which a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist had a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher. In an effort to focus on crashes in which alcohol was most likely to be a causative factor, NHTSA introduced the new measure, "alcohol-impaired driving crashes," with a more narrow definition including only those crashes in which a driver or motorcycle rider had a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, the legal limit in every state.

"Even as we celebrate the incredible gains we're making in reducing traffic fatalities, we recognize our responsibility to improve our understanding of the dangers that continue to threaten drivers and passengers," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "That's why, under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, NHTSA is working to refine the way we collect data on distracted driving and laying the groundwork for additional research to capture real-world information on this risky behavior."

While the explicit change in methodology means the new measure cannot be compared to the 5,474 "distraction-related" fatalities reported in 2009, other NHTSA data offer some indication that driver distraction continues to be a significant problem. The agency's nationwide observational survey of drivers in traffic remains unchanged between 2009 and 2010, with 5 percent of drivers seen talking on handheld phones. In addition, given ongoing challenges in capturing the scope of the problem-including individuals' reluctance to admit behavior, lack of witnesses, and in some cases the death of the driver-NHTSA believes the actual number of crashes that involve distracted driving could be higher.

National Attitude Survey on Distracted Driving

A new national NHTSA survey offers additional insights into how drivers behave when it comes to texting and cell phone use while behind the wheel and their perceptions of the safety risks of distracted driving. Survey respondents indicated they answer calls on most trips; they acknowledge few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text; and yet they feel unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and they support bans on texting and cell phone use. These findings provide further evidence that distracted driving is a complex problem that is both hard to measure and difficult to address given conflicting public attitudes and behaviors.

"The findings from our new attitude survey help us understand why some people continue to make bad decisions about driving distracted-but what's clear from all of the information we have is that driver distraction continues to be a major problem," said Administrator Strickland. "We need to maintain our focus on this issue through education, laws, enforcement, and vehicle design to help keep drivers' attention on the road."

Among the findings, more than three-quarters of drivers report that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips. Drivers also report that they rarely consider traffic situations when deciding when to use their phone.

While most drivers said they are willing to answer a call and many will send a text while driving, almost all of these same drivers reported that they would feel very unsafe as a passenger if their driver was sending or receiving text messages. Over one-third report that they would feel very unsafe if their driver was using a handheld phone.

Continuing Data Refinement

NHTSA's adoption of the new "distraction-affected crash" measure for the 2010 FARS data is one step in a continuing effort to focus in on driver distraction and separate it from other issues. As part of its commitment to reduce the problem of distracted driving, NHTSA will continue to look for improved data sources. While police reports of serious crashes are an important source, they are limited by the evidence available to the officer. As a result, the agency is working to optimize information from crash reports by improving reporting forms and officer training. In addition, NHTSA will analyze new data on driver distraction from a new naturalistic study in which about 2,000 cars will be fitted with cameras and other equipment that will record driver behavior over a period of two years. Researchers will be able to use these data to associate driver behaviors with crash involvement. Data from this study will be available in 2014.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 45 Comments
      travisjb
      • 3 Years Ago
      Good. Now raise the speed limits!
      Rob
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's hard to get seriously injured when you are usually just creeping along in bumper to bumper traffic.
      The Law
      • 3 Years Ago
      Cars are safer.
      narcszm
      • 3 Years Ago
      A sobering statistic embedded in there: 30% of all fatal accidents involve a drunk driver. It would also be interesting to know how many of those were single-vehicle accidents.
      dave and mary
      • 3 Years Ago
      But accidents are up. Cell phones use is up. Go figure. .Please mfr's and the government, continue to save us from ourselves. I can't wait for the tchnology to cut off the cell signal when the vehicle is moving.
      NicholasXu
      • 3 Years Ago
      Increase of fuel price works... T T
        NissanGTR
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NicholasXu
        Except you are completely wrong
        MazdaSpeeder
        • 3 Years Ago
        @NicholasXu
        No it doesn't. Read the stats...people drove MORE. The only way increasing fuel prices would be validated as a preventing factor in road deaths is if people had driven less miles and therefore there were less accidents. We drove 46 billion more miles and there were less accidents.
      Bryan Riddle
      • 3 Years Ago
      so anything new on raising the damn speed limit?
      ryan
      • 3 Years Ago
      The real question is if drives are imporving there habits or, is it all safety features.
      cashsixeight
      • 3 Years Ago
      Death to SUV owners! HAHAHAH! Flip over and die with your crap handling, small penis compensation mobiles!
        bman78
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cashsixeight
        ....wow some one has issues.
        CommonSense
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cashsixeight
        I feel for you, you have some issues.
        merlot066
        • 3 Years Ago
        @cashsixeight
        My '05 Aviator handles like a damn pro thank you very much. Get back in your "understated" whatever-the-hell you drive and stop being an ass.
          danrarbc64
          • 3 Years Ago
          @merlot066
          "My '05 Aviator handles like a damn pro thank you very much." Compared to what? A semi?
      Polly Prissy Pants
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lousy govamint and all their meddlin', making us have airbags and ABS and crash tests and whatnot.
      L1011
      • 3 Years Ago
      Maybe this will quiet down the 'Speed Kills' radicals
        travisjb
        • 3 Years Ago
        @L1011
        Speed doesn't kill. Differences in speeds kill. Raise the minimum.
          ksrcm
          • 3 Years Ago
          @travisjb
          travisjb: Speed difference doesn't kill, either. If you pay attention, lift your eyes and look forward, plan your moves and anticipate other people's moves, no speed difference is going to kill anybody.
          Bruce Lee
          • 3 Years Ago
          @travisjb
          You don't even have to raise it so much as actually have police enforce the rules and get people doing 15 under out of the left
          The_Zachalope
          • 3 Years Ago
          @travisjb
          Or at least make it constant for all vehicles. The whole 70 limit, but 55 for trucks screws a LOT up.
          CanIGetAWhatWhat
          • 3 Years Ago
          @travisjb
          Wrong -- both speed AND differences in speeds kill. Common sense (would you rather crash at 10MPH or 50MPH?) and IIHS/other agency research supports this. For more on this see here: http://iihs.org/research/qanda/speed_limits.html
          ksrcm
          • 3 Years Ago
          @travisjb
          OK, Zachalope, why is limiting trucks at 55 while cars can travel 70 screwing up a lot? Besides, I would like to know where you live because I still have to see an Interstate in US that did something sensible as that -> 55 for trucks, 70+ for cars.
      delsolo1
      • 3 Years Ago
      Damn government safety regulations.
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