NHTSA data show record low highway fatalities

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The number of people killed in traffic crashes is expected to reach a new record low in 2008, with early projections showing an almost 10 percent drop in highway traffic deaths in the first 10 months of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday, Dec. 11.

“Our focus on safety – from our highways, railways, seaways and airways – has led to one of the safest periods in our nation’s transportation history,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. “Every American can be more confident than ever they will arrive at their destination safe and sound.”

Peters says the new fatality data marks the first time the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is able to project fatality figures prior to the end of the calendar year. Using new electronic data gathering techniques, DOT is working to make projections in near real time to “give safety professionals the data they need to keep motorists safe,” she says.

Early estimates show that 31,110 people died on the nation’s roads from January through October, compared to 34,502 in 2007 during that same 10-month time period. In addition, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicles miles traveled for the first nine months of 2008 is 1.28, compared to 1.37 for 2007.

“For the second year in a row, we are seeing historic lows in deaths on our nation’s roads,” Peters says. “While we are encouraged by these declines, our work is not nearly complete in making our safe transportation network even safer.”

NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports on traffic fatality trends. The agency intends to update 2008 estimates regularly as more data becomes available. The final counts for 2008 will be made available in the summer of 2009.