Car accident fatality rate continues to fall

Last year, more than 32,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States. This number is significant for several reasons. It is a decline from the 2010 car accident fatality rate, and marks a more than 25 percent drop from the rate in 2005. It also marked the lowest fatality rate in more than six decades.

There is one statistic, however, that is especially meaningful. At first glance, it seems that the decline in crash deaths is caused by the fact that drivers in Texas and around the country traveled fewer miles in 2011. But that is not the case. In 2011, the number of vehicle miles driven in the U.S. fell by 1.2 percent, while the number of car accident fatalities dropped by two percent.

Last year, there were 1.10 traffic deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, which is a slight decline from the 1.11 traffic deaths per 100 million miles traveled in 2010. In fact, the 2011 level marked the lowest fatality rate per miles driven ever recorded in the United States.

According to Ray LaHood, the low crash rate means that significant progress has been made. However, with more than 32,000 car accident fatalities in 2011, he said, it is clear that more work needs to be done.

“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,” LaHood said. “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 seat belt use, drunk driving, and driver distraction.”

Source: NHTSA, “New NHTSA Analysis Shows 2011 Traffic Fatalities Declined by Nearly Two Percent,” Dec. 10, 2012