U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released updated 2009 fatality and injury data showing 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% 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 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 U.S. DOT’s campaign to reduce traffic fatalities, LaHood will convene a National Distracted Driving Summit on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C.
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, falling an estimated 5.5% from 2008, according to NHTSA data released today.
Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4% 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.”