By on November 12, 2010

American roads have never been safer according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the first half of 2010. Already in 2009, the number of people killed per 100 million vehicle miles traveled had dropped to 1.13 from 1.26 in 2008. This 5.3 percent drop in accidents already represented the lowest rate on record.

Statistics for the first half of the year are even better. Deadly collisions have dropped another 9.2 percent for an accident rate of just 1.02. In total, 1513 fewer people died on the roads by the end of June as compared to the same period last year. The safety improvement streak that has lasted unbroken for seventeen consecutive quarters. Shorter safety streaks last happened around 1981 and 1990 — corresponding to the last major economic recessions.

Local officials frequently credit their own policies for reductions that might happen in a given city, especially in areas where red light cameras or speed cameras are used. The benefit, however, extends nationwide and throughout jurisdictions where photo enforcement is illegal. As a result of the current sluggish economic situation, vehicle travel has remained relatively stagnant, increasing only by one-tenth of a percent compared to the first half of 2009. Compared to 2005, the chance of being involved in a fatal accident has dropped a full 30 percent.

In addition to economic factors, road fatalities nationwide continue to decline as hospitals improve trauma care services and older cars on the road are replaced with newer models equipped with stability control, anti-lock brakes, crumple zones and other advanced safety features. Assuming accident trends continue, about 13,000 fewer people will die on the roads in in 2010 than perished in 2005.

A copy of the latest NHTSA fatality report is available in a 600k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9/11/2010)


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26 Comments on “Road Fatality Rate Continues Historic Decline...”

  • avatar

    Not to miss the point of the article entirely, but I thought it had been shown that anti-lock brakes really don’t reduce accidents.  Am I wrong there?   I suppose I could look it up, but it’s Friday and I’m among the best and brightest who will just plain know.  Now to sip my coffee and wait to be educated.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure about anti-lock brakes but stability control can reduce your chance of death or serious injury as much as seat belts.  It’s the biggest safety advance in quite a while.

    • 0 avatar

      The secret to the effectiveness of Anti-Lock brakes is how to use them. We have been conditioned to pumping the brakes in a slippery situation, or just jamming the pedal to the floor in a panic stop to avoid slamming into someone.

      Over time, when most cars on the road have A/L and are accustomed to using them properly, the effect will be significant. Right now? We’re in between.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I could turn off my ABS. I used to lock-up the brakes with a counter-clockwise rotation if I was to avoid a collision on the left. Letting up on the brakes when it was time to steer. I’d slide it clockwise to pass by on the right. This old lady (on my right) in a Cutlass mistook a 2-way intersection for a 4-way and starts rolling foward into my path (at 40 MPH). With no time to honk, I start sawing at the wheel and stood on the brakes. I was driving a new ABS F-150 and was expecting locked brakes with a loud screeching sound. That sound worked better than any locomotive air horn. We both headed for a collision in the center of the intersection as I was still cranking he wheel to the left. She finally saw me as I was about to hit her left fender and veered to the right. Missed her by inches.

    • 0 avatar

      My understanding is that you’re right: ABS may reduce the number of fender benders, but it’s difficult for a typical driver to take full advantage of it in a high-speed situation. The ability to brake and steer doesn’t save you from under- or oversteer, so you still crash. I don’t think it affected death rates much as it became common in the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Still, it helps against fender benders so it probably pays for itself, and you need the sensors anyway if you want stability control.
      Stability control DOES save you from under- or oversteer, so it definitely saves lives. In Europe it’s reduced head-on collisions between small cars, which have short wheelbases and are prone to loss of control. Here it’s reduced SUV rollovers. It won’t prevent rollovers caused by tripping over something, but it can theoretically prevent the rest.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I could turn off my ABS. I used to lock-up the brakes with a counter-clockwise rotation if I was to avoid a collision on the left.

      Sure you did Schumacher – sure you did.

    • 0 avatar

      As a kid I practiced stunts like ‘Rockfords’ before I had my licence. Studied books from Bob Bondurant and such and learned to do things like trail-braking and four-wheel drifts. Knowing how to do stunts and drive at 10/10th made me a better driver over all. Avioding collisions takes more than racing/stunt skills, it’s more about staying cool and not panicking… whether it’s between you and an errant driver or just the center divider, it’s still a stunt.

  • avatar

    anti-lock brakes, crumple zones and other advanced safety features. Assuming accident trends continue, about 13,000 fewer people will die on the roads in in 2010 than perished in 2005.
    For all the B&B railing about weight and “nannies” 13k is a lot people.

    • 0 avatar

      Not that the more reactionary will admit to it, but the big weight-gain causes aren’t “nannies and electronics” but seats, wheels, soundproofing, engines and frame.  Airbags and electronics aren’t really that heavy, and ESC and ABS are mostly software and weigh nothing.
      You want to do wonders for fuel economy?  Buy a smaller car (shocking!) with less sound deadening (horror!) and smaller engine (unheard of!) and, if you really want to feel it, with 14″ rims: the intertia of a spinning 18″ rim and the associated big tire counts for more than any “nanny” ever will.

    • 0 avatar

      True – but the increasing requirements for front, side and roof strength do add to a cars weight.  If you don’t want your car to collapse like a Brilliance GS6 in a Euro-NCAP crash test you need to add some metal.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t disagree with you, but pinging on weight being the fault of safety and regulation isn’t entirely fair, not when some makes (Honda, Toyota and now Hyundai) can consistently come several hundred pounds lighter for the same useful interior size than certain of their competition (GM, Volkswagen, certain Fords, etc) and still meet safety requirements.
      I think we’re being entirely too reactionary, and at the same time too greedy, when it comes to weight, safety and our tastes for luxury and image.  Consider these examples:
      The Honda Accord, which in I4 form weighs less than the much smaller VW Jetta and in V6 form less than the Taurus, but offers more space than either.
      The Nissan Versa, which offers more space than several mid-size cars and compact crossovers and weighs nearly a thousand pounds less than certain members of it’s competition.
      The Toyota Sienna, which is not a light vehicle, but also packs in way more useful space despite tipping the scales only a few pounds above the aforementioned Taurus, as well as several large crossovers and every German large sedan.
      Now, consider the Sonata Turbo, which weighs in about what the I4 Accord above does, but out-powers it handily.  It’s a new car and meets modern standards handily.
      Cars are heavy because they’ve gotten bigger and more refined, and it’s something we as car buyers have enabled.  You can see the cognitive dissonance even in TTAC’s commentary, where the Versa was recently reviewed and called “a penalty box”, yet we still harp on about prior years’ cars that, in essence, are what the Versa and it’s ilk are.
      If we want to do something about weight in vehicles, we need to either insist on tax and regular that incentivizes smaller, lighter, better packages cars, or exercise a little personal responsibility and do so ourselves.

    • 0 avatar

      US traffic deaths were effectively flat at 42,000 a year from 1995-2007.  Weight and nannies didn’t suddenly occur out of the ether in 2008.
      These statistics don’t show that the 12th airbag is a lifesaver.  They show that the 18-25 year old men who cause most serious accidents – 6-7% of licensed drivers but 20-22% of fatal accidents last year – are sitting on their couches without gas money.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you’re wrong.  You need to look at the rates per 100 million miles traveled over the past 16 years and you see that cars are getting much safer.

      2010 – 1.13
      2008 – 1.26
      2007 – 1.36
      2006 – 1.42
      2005 – 1.46
      2004 – 1.44
      2003 – 1.48
      2002 – 1.51
      2001 – 1.51
      2000 – 1.53
      1999 -1.55
      1998 – 1.58
      1997 – 1.64
      1996 – 1.69
      1995 – 1.73

    • 0 avatar

      You’d actually have to look at fatalities per 100mm miles per age category and also compare average miles traveled by age category before and after the beginning of funemployment and funderemployment of young males to determine if aspade’s observation is true or false. My (unsupported) hunch is that less driving in that age category does contribute. Didn’t we have a post not long ago re: lack of interest in cars by the young’uns?
      Seeing as we are doing ever so well, can we please have a moratorium on new government mandated safety features and requirements?
      ps – what ever happened to the guy who flew his mullet-era Camaro backwards into the Ohio bridge abutment?

    • 0 avatar

      Seeing as we are doing ever so well, can we please have a moratorium on new government mandated safety features and requirements
      Why?  In what world is 30k still an acceptable number?  Also, its not just about the dead but it’s also about the 100s of thousands who are brain injured or otherwise disabled.

    • 0 avatar

      Why?  In what world is 30k still an acceptable number?

      Of course it is not acceptable. But at some point the cost/benefit ratio becomes prohibitive. That effort might be better spent on cars that drive themselves so that the people who’d rather fiddle with the nav/radio/entertainment center while drinking a coffee can do so without being a threat to themselves, other drivers, pedestrians and bike riders. Actually, I suppose that also is a safety feature. Driving Miss Doofus.

    • 0 avatar

      “Why?  In what world is 30k still an acceptable number?”
      Perhaps some of that “safety” focus could be redirected toward teaching people how to drive? I just spent 5 weeks on a courier gig – 5-10 hours on the road per day. The degreee of deeply mindless idiocy out there is terrifying. My favorite trick was the “drivers” who would accelerate to match my pace as I passed them, (3,4, and 5-lane freeways) and then hang comfortably in the lane to my right, about 1/2 carlength behind my rear bumper. And STAY there until I was forced to take some direct action to get rid of them.

    • 0 avatar

      <i>Perhaps some of that “safety” focus could be redirected toward teaching people how to drive?</i>

      Study after study has proven that to be almost totally ineffective.

  • avatar

    The USA in decline.
    We MUST diligently apply ourselves individually and as a society to return to our previous higher levels of motor vehicle-caused deaths.
    How else will we save Social Security and MediCare.
    Your country calls upon you to do your duty!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      How else will we save Social Security and MediCare.

      I’ll have you know sir that I nearly shot coffee out of my nose.

    • 0 avatar

      See? The wisdom of the Poet Laureate truly transcends all other commentors! Listen and learn!

      Got to love him!

    • 0 avatar
      mad scientist

      This is actually natural selection going in reverse.
      The drop in fatalities can only be correlated with (not the weight of the car), the ever increasing weight of the average American.  Thus, all of the skinny people are rapidly becoming extinct.
      More fat = more padding = impact survival. All that blubber is just like having airbags all around you.
      My theory for the day.

    • 0 avatar

      @Mad Scientist – screw the gym, I need to go get me a cheeseburger!!!

  • avatar

    Traffic fatalities always drop in lockstep with economic downturns.
    Many people mistakenly understood this fact in 1974 ‘s big economic downturn, to be due to the “temporary” 55mph speed limit, and made it permanent, at least for 13 dismal years.

  • avatar

    Cash for Clunkers, anyone?

  • avatar

    So where is the reduction in car insurance rates then?
    We didn’t see rates go down after states were forced to adopt primary seat belt laws either.
    Makes one wonder who benefits from these laws…

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