According to an annual report published by the National Safety Council, there were 39,800 deaths last year related to motor vehicles in 2008. That's an 8% improvement over the previous year, and it's not entirely due to fewer miles driven, as the ratio of deaths per vehicle miles driven has also dropped.

A trifecta of factors have conspired to cut traffic fatalities in 2008 to these record low levels. First, our vehicles themselves are getting safer, as proven each year by the number of new vehicles that ace NHTSA and IIHS crash testing. Other likely contributing factors are public education and the visible enforcement of safety laws.

Fewer deaths also means less money paid for things like lost wages, medical expenses and property damage. Not as important as fatalities to be sure, but good news nonetheless. Click on the jump for the NSC's press release.

[Source: National Safety Council]


2008 Traffic Deaths Hit Record Low, Says National Safety Council

Factors include safer vehicles, public education, law enforcement

ITASCA, Ill., Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Safety Council announced today that motor vehicle deaths in 2008 achieved the lowest rate since the NSC began publishing its annual Injury Facts statistical report in the 1920s. The estimated annual death rate from motor vehicle-related crashes in 2008 was 13 deaths per 100,000 people, a 9 percent decrease from 2007, according to NSC data. The estimated annual mileage death rate for 2008 was 1.38 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a 4 percent decrease from 2007.

"This is outstanding news for our nation and the people whose lives have been saved by changes in our nation's driving culture over the past several years," said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC. "While a number of factors have helped lower the rate, it is our experience that public education coupled with visible enforcement of safety laws can be one of the most effective ways to change behaviors and save lives."

Also contributing to the lower rate are improved vehicle safety features and greater visibility and enforcement of important traffic safety laws, including laws related to seat belt use, child passengers, impaired driving and teen driving.

The estimated cost of crash-related deaths, injuries and property damage also decreased. The 2008 total, $237.2 billion, is 8 percent lower than the total cost in 2007. Expenses include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.

NSC recorded 39,800 motor vehicle-related deaths in 2008, down 8 percent from 2007. NSC's data-gathering method differs slightly from that of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NSC researchers also clarified that while higher gas prices and other factors contributed to fewer miles driven in 2008, and to the decrease in the number of people killed, the lower motor vehicle death rate demonstrates real reductions attributable to factors other than fewer miles driven.

The National Safety Council ( saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes, communities and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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