Projections show fewest traffic fatalities since 1949

Washington – Although Americans are driving more, the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to the lowest levels since 1949, according to early projections found in a report (.pdf file) released April 1 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Preliminary statistics show an estimated 32,788 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2010, representing about a 3 percent decline from the 33,808 fatalities reported in 2009. NHTSA projects the fatality rate also will be the lowest recorded since 1949, with 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Regionally, the Pacific Northwest states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska) showed a 12 percent decrease – the greatest drop in fatalities. Arizona, Hawaii and California had the next steepest decline (11 percent).

Department of Transportation officials attributed the decline in fatalities to increased traffic safety laws, high-visibility law enforcement, vehicle safety improvements and public awareness campaigns.

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