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2010 Was a Record Year for Road Safety

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author photo by Autotrader April 2011

According to the Department of Transportation, 32,788 people were killed on the roads of the United States last year. In that twisted way only achievable by statistics, this can be seen as good news.

It represents the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1949, when 30,246 failed to make it home. This is despite the fact that there are many more vehicles on the road now than during the Truman administration, and the annual number of miles traveled by Americans has grown from 297.9 billion in 2009 to 299.6 billion in 2010. This averages out to 1.09 deaths for every million miles.

There has been a steady downward trend regarding fatal road accidents, with the number dropping by 25 percent – from 43,510 – in 2005. The credit for this can be attributed to safer cars, the deployment of traction and stability controls, airbags, and seat belts. In 2009, a record number of vehicle occupants – 84 percent – were choosing to buckle up.

Road safety campaigns also played their part. There has been the “Click It Or Ticket” push to get people using their seat belts and the “Over The Limit. Under Arrest” crackdown on drunk driving. “It proves we can make a difference,” said Transport Secretary Ray LaHood. “Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies.”

He stated that his agency will continue to encourage drivers to put safety first, with particular emphasis on the dangers of distracted driving. The Department of Transportation has launched a new website – www.distraction.gov – that offers relevant news and information.

Drivers who have really gotten the message are those in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, where road deaths fell by 12 percent. It was also close to 11 percent for Arizona, California and Hawaii. Sadly, there was an 18-percent increase in the New England states. “We have to remember that these aren’t just numbers, these are lives,” said John Whatley, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Car makers “are partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to advance technology that keeps drunk drivers from even starting a vehicle,” said Whatley.

The NHTSA has also urged auto companies to make swift recalls and made its crash test regime more demanding, while the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is looking into the implementation of “Safety Edge” technology on new road and highway projects. It shapes the pavement edge in a certain way to lessen the risk of running off the road. With all these measures, plus the increasing use of rumble strips and cable median barriers (which reduce the incidence of crossover head-on collisions) – plus new features like lane departure warning systems, blind spot monitoring, collision warning and night vision – let’s hope the number of traffic fatalities and injuries falls even further in 2011 and the foreseeable future.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2010 Was a Record Year for Road Safety - Autotrader