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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Traffic Deaths Down Slightly…But Still Too Many Die

At Least Half of Roadway Fatalities Not Wearing Seat Belts

According to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, preliminary figures show that traffic deaths on U.S. roads were down slightly in 2006, but warned that far too many continue to perish.

In 2006, the number of road fatalities is believed to have declined slightly nationwide from 43,443 in 2005 to 43. But "even one death is too many," Secretary Peters said. And the preliminary data shows that over half of passenger fatalities died unbuckled.

"Bad things happen when people don’t buckle up, and no one is immune from the damage and devastation that comes from not wearing a seat belt," said Secretary Peters. She also commended New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine for his work to educate drivers and other vehicle occupants about the need to buckle up, saying "perhaps his pictures and his words about his crash will inspire people to buckle up every time they get in the car, no excuses."

As the summer driving season starts in June, police officers around the country will be patrolling for people who aren't buckled up. Secretary Peters added that the U.S. DOT gives millions of dollars to states in highway safety funds each year, including nearly $27 million to support seat belt enforcement efforts.

The recently-released preliminary 2006 fatality numbers envisage a 2006 fatality rate of 1.44 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), down from 1.45 in 2005. During that same period, injuries dropped 6 percent from 2.7 million in 2005 to 2.54 million in 2006. Previous estimates show that highway crashes cost taxpayers $230.6 billion a year, or roughly $820 per person.

The preliminary figures also reveal that between 2005 and 2006: overall alcohol-related deaths rose 2.4 percent from 17,525 to 17,941; pedestrian fatalities dropped slightly, from 4,881 to 4,768; and death by large truck crash dropped from 5,212 to 5,018, a 3.7 percent decline.

"The long Memorial Day weekend not only signals the start of summer, it should also serve as a stark reminder that buckling up can be a life-and-death proposition," said Secretary Peters.

The final 2006 report will be available late this summer. The preliminary report is available at:

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