2006 Highway Deaths Estimated at 43,330
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The U.S. Department of Transportation's newly released 2006 Preliminary Estimate of Highway Fatalities indicates that in 2006 there were 43,330 deaths overall, compared to 43,443 in 2005. "The report offers a few signs for optimism," said Christopher J. Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "We are very pleased that injuries are projected down by 6 percent, likely in part due to an increase in safety belt use. In fact, nonfatal crashes are projected below six million for the first time. Fatalities from large truck crashes dropped by 3.7 percent and pedestrian deaths also made a slight decline."However, Murphy said he was particularly concerned that motorcycle fatalities increased for the ninth straight year and show no sign of easing. "To help reduce these fatalities, GHSA urges states to adopt a comprehensive motorcycle safety program including mandatory helmet laws," Murphy said. "It's frustrating that only Louisiana has enacted a helmet law in the past decade. Only 20 states have these lifesaving laws. It is time for action on this issue."Murphy also said GHSA members are troubled that alcohol-related fatalities increased 2.4 percent. While enforcement and prevention remain critical in reducing drunk driving, technology may lead to significant new reductions. "GHSA urges every state to require alcohol interlock devices for all first-time offenders," Murphy said. "Through enforcement, prevention and technology, we can turn this tragic trend around."State Highway Safety Offices also report that excessive speeding by motorists has reduced the expected gains in lives saved by historically high seat belt use. State studies as well as those by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicate that motorists are driving at record speeds, well above posted limits. "The preliminary figures offer some positives but also raise some alarms," Murphy said. "State highway safety offices in partnership with MADD, DOT and law enforcement remain committed to developing and implementing life-saving programs and reducing the scourge of traffic fatalities."