An analysis from the Department of Transportation’s National highway Traffic Safety Administration says highway deaths in 2011 fell to their lowest levels since 1949 to 32,367 deaths — a 26 percent decline since 2005 and a 1.9 percent drop from 2010.
However, fatalities of large truck occupants rose 20 percent from 2010, and NHTSA is “working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in fatalities in 2011” says the announcement from the DOT.
Americans on the whole drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, says the DOT’s study, but the number of fatalities outpaced the drop in mileage. According to the announcement, 2011 also recorded the lowest fatality rate ever per 100 million vehicle miles traveled — 1.10. That number is down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles in 2011.
Distracted driving also proved more costly in 2011, as the number of deaths caused by distraction-affected crashes increased 1.9 percent from 2010 to 3,331.