The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced that the number of overall traffic fatalities reported at the end of 2009 declined for the 15th consecutive quarter, reaching the lowest level since 1954. According to early projections, the fatality rate, which takes into account the number of miles traveled, reached the lowest level ever recorded.





Photos: Ford



The projected fatality data for 2009 places the highway death count at 33,963, a drop of 8.9 percent as compared to the 37,261 deaths reported in 2008. The fatality rate for 2009 declined to the lowest on record, to 1.16 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) down from 1.25 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2008.



"This is exciting news, but there are still far too many people dying in traffic accidents," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Drivers need to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their focus on the road in order to stay safe."



Traffic fatalities have been steadily declining since reaching a near-term peak in 2005, decreasing by about 22 percent from 2005 to 2009. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2009 increased by about 6.6 billion miles, or about a 0.2-percent increase.







The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes the decline in 2009 to a combination of factors that include, high visibility campaigns like Click It or Ticket to increase seat belt use, and Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest which helps with the enforcement of state laws to prevent drunk driving and distracted driving. In addition, the decline is also the result of safer roads, safer vehicles and motorists driving less.



NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports on traffic fatality trends. The agency intends to update 2009 estimates regularly as more data becomes available. The final counts for 2009 will be made available in the summer of 2010.



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