WASHINGTON, D.C. — Deaths from motor vehicle traffic crashes fell to 33,808 for 2009, the lowest number since 1950, which had 33,186. The decline in traffic fatalities occurred even while estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2009 increased by 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.
These figures are part of updated 2009 fatality and injury data released by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week.
Last year also saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded: 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, 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 [DOT], we are laser-focused on our top priority: safety,” LaHood said following the release of the data. “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 DOT’s campaign to reduce traffic fatalities, LaHood will convene a national Distracted Driving Summit on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C. Leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement officials, industry representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related crashes will address challenges and identify opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts.
LaHood’s first distracted driving summit was held the fall of 2009 — it sparked efforts at the federal level to crack down on bus drivers who send text messages while driving, as SBF reported here.
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 data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent — 10,839 in 2009 compared to 11,711 reported in 2008. Overall, 33 states and Puerto Rico experienced a decline in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities last year compared to the previous year.
“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:
• 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).
To view the latest 2009 FARS data, click here.