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Better vehicle design credited with decline in highway deaths

Analysis shows marked decline in likelihood of crashing, increased likelihood of escaping a crash without injuries

June 14, 2012
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trafficThe U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that better-designed, safer vehicles have contributed to an overall decline in crashes, deaths and injuries on U.S. roadways. In a new report, the agency's analysis of police-reported crash data estimates that design improvements between Model Year 2000 and Model Year 2008 cars helped save 2,000 lives and prevented one million occupant injuries in the 2008 calendar year alone.

"Between better safety practices developed at the Department of Transportation and improved designs by automakers, we are making real progress protecting drivers and passengers nationwide," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We celebrate the historic decline in deaths and injuries on our roads as we remain laser-focused on continuing to improve safety."

The NHTSA report shows the likelihood of escaping a crash uninjured improved from 79 to 82 percent as a result of improvements between the MY 2000 and 2008 cars. The report used statistical models to isolate vehicle improvements from human and environmental factors. NHTSA data show traffic fatalities have been on a steady decline in the past decade, falling to 32,885 in 2010 – the lowest level in six decades – despite Americans driving more miles than previous years.

"We expect this trend to continue as automakers add advanced safety features to their fleets and continue to improve vehicle designs to earn top safety ratings under our newly updated 5-Star crash-test program," said David Strickland, NHTSA Administrator. "Safer cars, along with safer drivers and roads, are key components in ensuring the annual number of traffic fatalities remains on a downward trajectory."

To view NHTSA's "An Analysis of Recent Improvements to Vehicle Safety," visit www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811572.pdf

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