August 2, 2005

2004 American highway fatality rate lowest ever

Washington, D.C. – The fatality rate on American highways in 2004 was the lowest since record-keeping began 30 years ago, as announced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The number of alcohol-related fatalities also dropped for the second straight year.

A total of 42,636 people died on the highways in 2004, down from 42,884 in 2003. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled (VMT) was 1.46 in 2004, down from 1.48 in 2003. The fatality rate has been steadily improving since 1966, when 50,894 people died and the rate was 5.5.

“Drivers are safer today on our nation’s highways than they have ever been, in part because of the safer cars, higher safety belt use and stronger safety laws that this Department has helped champion,” said Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. “But as long as the number of highway deaths remains as high as it is, we will keep advocating for the kind of vehicles, roads and driving habits that make people safer in their cars and trucks.”

Since 2001, the number of states with primary safety belt laws has increased to 22, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, leading to an 80 per cent safety belt use level, the highest ever. In addition, all states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, now have 0.08 blood alcohol laws for drivers. (Minnesota’s 0.08 law took effect yesterday.)

Other statistics included an 8 per cent rise in motorcycle fatalities; a 2.4 per cent decline in alcohol-related fatalities; an increase of 1.1 per cent in rollover deaths among passenger vehicle occupants; and a 5.6 per cent increase in total fatalities in SUVs, countered by a decrease in fatalities in passenger cars, pickup trucks and vans. As well, pedestrian deaths declined 2.8 per cent, fatalities in large truck crashes increased slightly, and 55 per cent of those killed in passenger vehicles in 2004 were not wearing seatbelts.

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