WASHINGTON, D.C. — The number and rate of U.S. 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, the federal government announced on Friday.
“Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news, and it proves that we can make a difference,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving, and encourage drivers to put safety first.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) early projections, the number of traffic fatalities fell 3 percent from 2009 to 2010, from 33,808 to 32,788. The deaths have dropped 25 percent since 2005, when the total was 43,510.
The decrease in the number of fatalities in 2010 occurred despite an estimated increase of nearly 21 billion miles in national vehicle miles traveled.
NHTSA also projects 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 traffic fatalities is a good sign, but we are always working to save lives,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said. “NHTSA will continue pressing forward on all of our safety initiatives to make sure our roads are as safe as they can possibly be.”
Officials from the Department of Transportation (which includes NHTSA) said that it has taken a comprehensive approach to reducing roadway fatalities by promoting strong traffic safety laws coupled with high-visibility enforcement, and through rigorous vehicle safety programs and public awareness campaigns.
To view the NHTSA statistical projections of traffic fatalities in 2010, including regional estimates, go here.