Washington, D.C. – U.S. traffic fatalities reported in 2008 hit their lowest level since 1961 and fatalities for the first 3 months of 2009 continue to decrease, according to the Department of Transportation. The fatality rate, which accounts for variables such as fewer miles travelled, also reached the lowest level ever recorded.

The 2008 fatality data placed the highway death count at 37,261, a drop of 9.7 per cent from 2007. The fatality rate for 2008 was 1.27 persons per 100 million vehicle miles travelled (VMT), about 7 per cent below the rate of 1.36 recorded for 2007.

Substantial declines occurred in virtually every major category, led by declines in passenger car occupant fatalities, which dropped for the 6th year in a row to the lowest level since the department began keeping records. Light truck occupant fatalities fell for the third straight year, while alcohol-impaired fatalities declined by more than 9 per cent over 2007.

However, motorcycle deaths increased in 2008 for the 11th straight row, and now account for 14 per cent of all highway fatalities.

Transportation secretary Ray LaHood said that the country has made major strides in increasing seatbelt use, curtailing impaired driving, making roads and highways safer, and maximizing vehicle safety.

Connect with Autos.ca