Data from the NHTSA shows that fatalities from car acci... Data from the NHTSA shows that fatalities from car accidents have significantly decreased (glen edelson, Flickr).

According to preliminary information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatalities on American roads is declining. The data collected and analyzed by the NHTSA indicated several positive aspects from 2009:

  • A decline in highway deaths of 8.9% from 2008 to 2009
  • The lowest fatality rate--1.16 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled--on record
  • The lowest overall number of deaths--33,963 -- since 1954
  • 15 straight quarters of decline in the number of overall roadway deaths

“We've worked hard to make sure drivers are getting our ‘Click it or Ticket’ and ‘Over the Limit, Under Arrest’ messages,” noted Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in his blog. "I have been on a personal tear to raise awareness about distracted driving."

The overall number of deaths (33,963) is an 8.9% decrease from 2008 and is the lowest on record since 1954. The data is in line with a continuation of declining traffic fatalities since they hit a near-term high in 2005, in which there were 43,510 deaths.

Traffic Fatalities Since 2005

200642,708 (-0.8%)
200741,259 (-2.7%)
200837,261 (-10.5%)
200933,963 (-8.9%)

Percentages indicate change from the previous year. Source: NHTSA

The data also indicates that the national vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by about 6.6 billion miles, a 0.2% increase from the 2008 VMT. Though American drivers traveled more, the fatality rate per 100 million VMT decreased to 1.16 in 2009, the lowest on record.

Comparatively, the number of deaths per 100 million VMT was 1.25 in 2008 and 1.46 in 2005.

News of the decrease in traffic fatalities is an encouraging sign that the safety measures employed by the Department of Transportation, the automakers, and American drivers themselves are having a positive effect. Each new car sold in America is designed with safer materials, arranged in a safer way, to produce safer outcomes in case of accidents.

However, there is still work to be done.

Secretary LaHood noted that while the statistics are encouraging, nearly 34,000 deaths on American roads is still an appalling number.

“[Our] work is far from over,” said LaHood. “We will be breaking down the numbers over the next few months to see where we have the best opportunities to reduce the number of traffic deaths even further.”

LaHood asked that drivers continue their efforts to make the roads as safe as possible.

“Remember, we all have work to do. So please, buckle up, put away your mobile devices, and keep your mind on the road. I want everyone to get home safely.”

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