WASHINGTON -- According to a recent report by the Department of Transportation, America's roads were safer in 2011 than they have been in more than 60 years. According to DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which crunched the numbers, traffic fatalities fell to 32,367 in 2011, or 1.9%, the lowest level since 1949. This is good news for route personnel who spend a good portion of their days on America's roads.
Fatalities declined by 4.6% for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups), while deaths from crashes involving drunk drivers decreased 2.5% in 2011, claiming 9,878 lives, compared with 10,136 in 2010. Stated another way, the figures represent 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.
Why the declines?
The DOT and outside experts credit advances in seatbelt and airbag technologies, improved driving habits and added safety features of new cars. There has also been more emphasis in recent years on formal programs to improve safety. Additionally, people are just driving less.
It's not all good news. Fatalities increased for the occupants of large trucks by 20%, while fatalities rose for pedal cyclists (8.7%), pedestrians (3%) and motorcycle riders (2.1%). The NHTSA said it is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on the large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in 2011 fatalities.
The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011 from 3,267 in 2010, or 1.9%.
"Even as we celebrate the progress we've made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year," said NHTSA administrator David Strickland.