April 3, 2011

US Traffic Fatalities At Lowest Levels In 2010

Despite an increase in the number of miles driven in 2010, traffic deaths fell 3% to its annual low of 32,788, compared to the previous year's 33,808 fatalities, according to estimates from U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

In addition, there has been a 25% drop in the number of people who died from traffic accidents since 2005.

The 2010 fatality rate of 1.09 per 100 million miles driven also reflects a steadily declining trend since the middle of the last decade, reports Reuters.

In 2008 there was a notable 9.7% decrease in deaths that DOT officials credited to its safety programs. However, a report analyzing the data also noted that the drop coincided with an economic recession. With high unemployment rates among young drivers, the recession probably impacted the decline in accidents among this age group, says DOT.

The U.S. Transportation Department received fatality totals for the first nine months of the year from each state. This number is then used with the department's projections of the totals for the final quarter to accurately calculate the total for the entire year, reports Reuters.

A breakdown by region shows the greatest drop in traffic deaths in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, where numbers fell by 12%.

With nearly an 11% decrease, Arizona, California and Hawaii had the next highest decline.

This downward trend may be coming to an end, reports CNN. DOT figures show a decline from the previous year's numbers for the first quarter (down 11.4%) and second quarter (down 5%), however, an increase is noted for the third quarter (up 1.6%) and fourth quarter (up 1.8%).

Transportation officials attribute the decrease in traffic fatalities to several reasons; some of which include seat belt use, changes to cars that improve vehicle safety and stronger campaigns that address drunk driving and distracted drivers.

However, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood believes that there are still too many people killed by distracted drivers, and that these deaths can be prevented.

"We're not where we want to be, but we know with good laws and good enforcement, people will put their cell phones down and their Blackberries," he says.


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