Statistics released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that most Americans are driving safer these days.

Preliminary results from the 2006 Annual Assessment of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities and Injuries show that the number of people killed in the United States in motor vehicle traffic crashes declined from 43,510 in 2005 to 42,642 last year, the lowest level in five years. This two-percent decline (868 less deaths) is the largest in terms of both number and percentage since 1992.

Published by NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, the preview data shows a decline in fatalities occurred for passenger car occupants, light-truck occupants, and nonmotorists (pedestrian and pedalcyclists).

The drop in passenger car occupant fatalities was for the fourth year in a row, while the drop in light-truck occupant fatalities was the first since 1992.

However, not all the statistics are positive. Motorcycle rider fatalities continued their nine-year increase, reaching 4,810 in 2006 — more than a 5 percent increase over 2005. Motorcycle rider fatalities now account for 11 percent of total fatalities, exceeding the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first time since NHTSA began collecting fatal motor vehicle crash data in 1975.

Also, fatalities of large truck motorists increased by one (from 804 in 2005 to 805 last year), although the number of large truck motorists injured declined by 4,000 (15 percent).

Other key results:

• The estimate of the number of people injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes declined for the seventh year in a row (from nearly 2.7 million in 2005 to just under 2.6 million in 2006).

• The Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatality Rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) dropped to 1.42 — the lowest rate recorded by the U.S. DoT. The overall injury rate also declined.

• Fatalities in alcohol-related crashes in 2006 remained essentially the same as in 2005. Declines in fatalities between 2005 and 2006 were essentially in crashes where there was no alcohol involvement.