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Traffic Deaths Hit Record Lows in 2009

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that 2009
fatality and injury data show that highway deaths fell to 33,808 for the
year, the lowest number since 1950. The record-breaking decline in
traffic fatalities occurred even while estimated vehicle miles traveled
in 2009 increased by 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.

In addition, 2009 saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever
recorded: 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009,
compared to 1.26 deaths for 2008.

Fatalities declined in all categories of vehicles including
motorcycles, which saw fatalities fall by 850 from 2008, breaking an
11-year cycle of annual increases.

“At the Department of Transportation, we are laser-focused on our
top priority: safety,” said Secretary LaHood. “Today’s announcement
shows that America’s roads are the safest they’ve ever been. But they
must be safer. And we will not rest until they are.”

As part of the Department’s campaign to reduce traffic fatalities,
Secretary LaHood will convene a National Distracted Driving Summit on
Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. The Secretary will bring together leading
transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry
representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related
crashes to address challenges and identify opportunities for national
anti-distracted driving efforts. This follows the first summit Secretary
LaHood held in the Fall of 2009 that sparked a national conversation
about texting and talking on cell phones while driving.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) study based on 2006 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data,
motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for those between
the ages of 3 and 34.

In addition to the record-breaking drop in fatalities, the number
of people injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 declined for a 10th
straight year in a row, falling an estimated 5.5 percent from 2008,
according to NHTSA data released today.

Alcohol impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent in
2009 – 10,839 compared to 11,711 reported in 2008. Overall, 33 states
and Puerto Rico experienced a decline in the number of alcohol-impaired
driving fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008.

“Today’s numbers reflect the tangible benefits of record seat belt
use and strong anti-drunk driving enforcement campaigns,” said NHTSA
Administrator David Strickland. “But we are still losing more than
30,000 lives a year on our highways, and about a third of these involve
drunk driving. We will continue to work with our state partners to
strictly enforce both seat belt use and anti-drunk driving laws across
this nation, every day and every night.”

Highlights of the latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and related NHTSA data include the following:


  • 33,808 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in
    2009, a 9.7 percent decline from 37,423 deaths reported in 2008, and the
    lowest number of deaths since 1950 (which had 33,186).


  • An estimated 2.217 million people were injured in 2009, a 5.5 percent decline from 2.346 million in 2008.


  • 30,797 fatal crashes occurred in 2009, down 9.9 percent
    from 34,172 in 2008. All crashes (fatal, injury and property damage
    only) were down by 5.3 percent in 2009 from a year ago.


  • Forty-one states, the District of Columbia and Puerto
    Rico all had reductions in fatalities, led by Florida (with 422 fewer
    fatalities) and Texas (with 405 fewer fatalities).

Click here to view the latest 2009 FARS data.

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