DOT reports record-low traffic deaths, highway fatality rate

Motor vehicle traffic fatalities and fatality rates are estimated to have dropped to their lowest recorded level in 2009 -- declining for the 15th consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data (.pdf file) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The data shows 33,963 motor vehicle traffic-related deaths occurred in 2009, an 8.9 percent decline from the 37,261 deaths reported in 2008. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled dropped to 1.16 in 2009 from 1.25 in 2008, representing the largest projected decline on record.

NHTSA attributes the decline to a number of factors, including high-visibility campaigns intended to increase safety belt use and decrease drunk driving, in addition to safer vehicles, safer roads and motorists driving less.

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