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Thursday, August 02, 2007

2006 Highway Fatality Rate is Lowest Ever Recorded

Declining Traffic Deaths Lead to Historic Low Fatality Rate

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced recently that the number of people who died on U.S. roads fell last year to the lowest highway fatality rate ever documented and the greatest drop in total deaths in 15 years.

“Tough safety requirements and new technologies are helping make our vehicles safer and our roads less deadly,” said Secretary Peters. “But we all must do more when so many are killed or seriously hurt on our roads every day.”

Secretary Peters said 42,642 people died in traffic accidents in 2006, a drop of 868 deaths compared to 2005. This two percent drop in traffic deaths contributed to the history-making low fatality rate of 1.42 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Most notably, Secretary Peters said that passenger fatalities continued a steady decline to 30,521, the smallest annual total since 1993. She added that injuries were also down in 2006, with passenger car injuries falling by 6.2 percent and large truck injuries declining by 15 percent.

Troubling trends continue in motorcycle and alcohol-related crashes, Secretary Peters cautioned. Alcohol-related deaths rose slightly in 2006 over 2005, and motorcycle deaths rose by 5.1 percent. This is the ninth consecutive year in a row that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recorded an increase in motorcycle deaths.

Secretary Peters said, “Proper training, clothing, gear and, above all, helmet use are essential to reversing this deadly trend.”

Continuing to be a top priority for the NHTSA will be drunk driving enforcement, NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason said, noting no improvement in last year’s alcohol-related fatalities figures. In 2006, she said, 15,121 fatalities involved a driver or motorcycle operator, pedestrian or cyclist who had a .08 or above blood alcohol concentration compared to 15,102 in 2005.

“There is a personal story behind these statistics and for every alcohol related fatality, the family left behind is shattered forever,” said Administrator Nason.

The NHTSA annually collects crash data from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce reports on fatalities and injuries. Their recently released report can be seen here.

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