WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949, despite a significant increase in the number of miles Americans drove during the year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) early projections, the number of traffic fatalities fell 3 percent between 2009 and 2010 -- from 33,808 to 32,788. Since 2005, fatalities have dropped 25 percent, from a total of 43,510 fatalities in 2005.
The same estimates also project that the fatality rate will be the lowest recorded since 1949, with 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from the 1.13 fatality rate for 2009. The decrease in fatalities for 2010 occurred despite an estimated increase of nearly 21 billion miles in national vehicle miles traveled.
"Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news and it proves that we can make a difference," said LaHood. "Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving, and encourage drivers to put safety first."
A regional breakdown showed the greatest drop in fatalities occurred in the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, where they dropped by 12 percent. Arizona, California and Hawaii had the next steepest decline, nearly 11 percent.
To view NHTSA's latest statistical projections of traffic fatalities in 2010, including regional estimates, click here.