Estimates Show U.S. Traffic Fatalities at Record Low in 2010

Even though Americans drove more miles last year, traffic deaths hit a record low.

As USA Today reports, early government projections show that road fatalities in 2010 declined to 32,788, a 3 percent fall from 2009, even as the number of miles logged by American drivers ticked up 0.7 percent. The reduction in auto deaths has been substantial in recent years: the 2010 total represents a 25 percent decline in traffic deaths just since 2005.

Another key measure — the number of deaths per 100 million miles driven — fell to 1.09, down from 1.13 in 2009 and also the lowest figure since the government started recording such highway fatality data in 1949.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a news release,  expressed satisfaction over the decline, and promised further action.

“Last year’s drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news, and it proves that we can make a difference,” 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.”

Others worry that the recent declines in auto deaths, announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, appear to be leveling off. For instance, after drops of 11.6 percent and 5 percent in the first and second quarters, respectively, of 2010, auto deaths rose 1.6 percent in the third quarter and 1.8 percent in the fourth, versus the figures for the same periods of 2009.

Also, as reported by The New York Times, other Western nations have shown even sharper declines in road deaths than the U.S. over the past decade.

Federal analysts have not yet released a breakdown of the causes of last year’s road fatalities.

Related Post:
Trend of Declining Traffic Deaths Continues in First Half of 2010

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One comment to “Estimates Show U.S. Traffic Fatalities at Record Low in 2010”

  1. James C. Walker

    We could make even more progress if all main road posted speed limits were set at the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under good conditions. That methodology normally yields the smoothest traffic flow, the fewest conflicts between vehicles and the lowest crash rate. Unfortunately, typical posted limits are often set in the 20th to 40th percentile speed range, thus to arbitrarily define 60% to 80% of all drivers as criminals or violations. See and download the Michigan State Police booklet on the science. Also see our website for a lot more of the research.
    Regards, James C. Walker, National Motorists Association,, Ann Arbor, MI

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