We did drive less last year, but mileage decreased by only 1.2 percent so it can't account for all of the difference. On top of that, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles was 1.10, the lowest number ever reported. Looking more closely, there were more motorcyclist, pedestrian, cyclist and large-truck occupant deaths, and accidents attributed to distraction claimed more lives in 2011 than 2010. But drunk driving deaths and deaths in passenger cars and light trucks both declined.
The adjustment will make 2012's numbers go even further in the wrong direction. In the first quarter of this year road fatalities were up 13.5 percent compared to Q1 2011; the half-year number had come down but was still up nine percent. That's the largest half-year increase since such data started being gathered. You can read the NHTSA press release below with more information on last year's numbers.
Highway deaths fell to lowest level in more than six decades, down 26 percent since 2005
WASHINGTON, Monday, December 10, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a new analysis indicating that highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1949 and a 1.9 percent decrease from the previous year. The updated 2011 data announced today show the historic downward trend in recent years continued through last year and represent a 26 percent decline in traffic fatalities overall since 2005.
"The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction."
While Americans drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, the nearly two percent drop in roadway deaths significantly outpaced the corresponding 1.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. In addition, updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) information released today shows 2011 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010. Other key statistics include:
- Fatalities declined by 4.6 percent for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
- Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010.
- Fatalities increased among large truck occupants (20 percent), pedalcyclists (8.7 percent), pedestrians (3.0 percent), and motorcycle riders (2.1 percent). NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on the large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in fatalities in 2011.
- The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011 from 3,267 in 2010, an increase of 1.9 percent. NHTSA believes this increase can be attributed in part to increased awareness and reporting.
An estimated 387,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes, a seven percent decline from the estimated 416,000 people injured in such crashes in 2010. Thirty-six states experienced reductions in overall traffic fatalities, led by Connecticut (100 fewer fatalities), North Carolina (93 fewer), Tennessee (86 fewer), Ohio (64 fewer) and Michigan (53 fewer).
"In the past several decades, we've seen remarkable improvements in both the way motorists behave on our roadways and in the safety of the vehicles they drive, and we're confident that NHTSA's 5-Star Safety Ratings Program and nationwide collaborations like 'Click It or Ticket' and 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' have played a key role in making our roads safer," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "Even as we celebrate the progress we've made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year."