2008 traffic deaths hit record low, NSC says

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The National Safety Council announced that motor vehicle deaths in 2008 achieved the lowest rate since the NSC began publishing its annual Injury Facts statistical report in the 1920s. The estimated annual death rate from motor vehicle-related crashes in 2008 was 13 deaths per 100,000 people, a 9 percent decrease from 2007, according to NSC data. The estimated annual mileage death rate for 2008 was 1.38 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a 4 percent decrease from 2007.

“This is outstanding news for our nation and the people whose lives have been saved by changes in our nation’s driving culture over the past several years,” says Janet Froetscher, president and chief executive officer of the NSC. “While a number of factors have helped lower the rate, it is our experience that public education coupled with visible enforcement of safety laws can be one of the most effective ways to change behaviors and save lives.”

Also contributing to the lower rate are improved vehicle safety features and greater visibility and enforcement of important traffic safety laws, including laws related to seatbelt use, child passengers, impaired driving and teen driving.

The estimated cost of crash-related deaths, injuries and property damage also decreased. The 2008 total, $237.2 billion, is 8 percent lower than the total cost in 2007. Expenses include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage.

NSC recorded 39,800 motor vehicle-related deaths in 2008, down 8 percent from 2007. NSC’s data-gathering method differs slightly from that of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NSC researchers also clarified that while higher gas prices and other factors contributed to fewer miles driven in 2008, and to the decrease in the number of people killed, the lower motor vehicle death rate demonstrates real reductions attributable to factors other than fewer miles driven.