Highway Deaths Drop to Historic Low, Report Says


  • NHTSA Logo

    NHTSA Logo

    Highway deaths fell to the lowest level in more than six decades. | December 11, 2012

Just the Facts:
  • American roads continued to get safer in 2011, as highway deaths fell nearly 2 percent to their lowest level since 1949, according to a new report from NHTSA.
  • Fatalities involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010.
  • But the number of people killed in distracted-driving crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011, an increase of 2 percent.

WASHINGTON — American roads continued to get safer in 2011, as highway deaths fell nearly 2 percent to their lowest level since 1949, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"While Americans drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, the nearly 2 percent drop in roadway deaths significantly outpaced the corresponding 1.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled," said NHTSA in a statement.

Fatalities involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010.

But the number of people killed in distracted-driving crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011, an increase of 2 percent. NHTSA said it believes this increase "can be attributed in part to increased awareness and reporting." It also noted that an estimated 387,000 people were injured in distracted-driving crashes, a 7 percent decline from the estimated 416,000 people injured in such crashes in 2010.

NHTSA reported 32,367 highway fatalities in 2011, a 26 percent decline overall since 2005.

"The latest numbers show how the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education, can really make a difference on our roadways," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a statement. "As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seatbelt use, drunk driving and driver distraction."

One alarming trend in the report involves large truck occupants, whose fatalities increased 20 percent. NHTSA vows to work with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on understanding the root cause behind the jump.

Edmunds says: It's no time to get complacent about automotive safety, even in the face of a relatively rosy report on highway deaths.

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