WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2009 shows that an estimated 16,626 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported. This represents a decline of about 7 percent as compared to the 17,871 fatalities that occurred in the first half of 2008. 

Fatalities declined by about 10 percent in the first quarter and declined by about 4 percent in the second quarter of 2009, as compared to the respective quarters in 2008. The second quarter of 2009 will be the 13th consecutive quarter of declines in fatalities as compared to the same quarter from the previous year, NHTSA said. 

Traffic fatalities have been declining steadily since reaching a near-term peak in 2005. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2009 dropped by about 6.1 billion miles, or about a 0.4-percent decline. On a quarterly basis, the vehicle miles traveled dropped by 1.7 percent during the first quarter and increased by 0.7 percent in the second quarter.