U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949, despite a significant increase in the number of miles Americans drove during the year.
“Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news and it proves that we can make a difference,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day.” Wood said the DOT would continue to promote seat belt use and take measures to discourage drunk and distracted driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) early projections, the number of traffic fatalities fell three percent between 2009 and 2010, from 33,808 to 32,788. Since 2005, fatalities have dropped 25 percent, from a total of 43,510 fatalities in 2005. The same estimates also project that the fatality rate will be the lowest recorded since 1949, with 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from the 1.13 fatality rate for 2009. The decrease in fatalities for 2010 occurred despite an estimated increase of nearly 21 billion miles in national vehicle miles traveled.
A regional breakdown showed the greatest drop in fatalities occurred in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, where they dropped by 12 percent. Arizona, California and Hawaii had the next steepest decline, nearly 11 percent.
Distracted driving has come under increasing focus as a safety hazard, prompting the DOT in 2009 to launch a national anti-distracted driving campaign and website, Distraction.gov, to provide the public with information on distracted driving. DOT has also hosted two national summits devoted to the issue, crafted sample legislation which states can use to adopt distracted driving laws, and initiated pilot law enforcement programs in Hartford, CT and Syracuse, NY.
The NHTSA’s efforts to improve vehicle safety include a 5-star rating system enacted in 2010 which established more rigorous crash-test standards and provided consumers with information about which cars perform best in collisions.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has also been encouraging the use of Safety Edge technology -- which reduces drivers’ risk of running off the road by shaping pavement edge -- on new road and highway projects. FHWA has also promoted the use of rumble strips and cable median barriers to separate opposing directions of traffic to reduce the incidence of crossover head-on collisions.