August 12, 2004

U.S. motor vehicle fatality rate reaches historic low

Washington, D.C. – The fatality rate on U.S. highways in 2003 was the lowest since record keeping began 29 years ago, said the U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. The number of crash-related injuries also dropped to a historic low in 2003.

“America’s roads and highways are safer than ever,” said Secretary Mineta. “The decreasing number of traffic fatalities and record low death rate on our roads shows that we are headed down the right road – one that leads to a safer America.”

Secretary Mineta pointed to efforts by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that contributed to the reduction in the fatal accident rate, including campaigns to encourage safety belt use and discourage impaired driving, work with state legislatures to pass tougher safety belt and drunk driving laws, and rulemaking efforts to improve vehicle safety standards.

A total of 42,643 people died, and 2.89 million were injured in 2003. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was 1.48 in 2003, down from 1.51 in 2002. It was the first time the rate has dropped below 1.5. In 2002, 43,005 were killed and 2.93 million were injured.

Alcohol-related fatalities also dropped significantly in 2003, the first such decline since 1999, as more states adopted laws that allowed them to prosecute drivers at .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) and above. 2004 marks the first year that .08 BAC laws have been enacted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

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