Truck-involved traffic fatalities declined 12% in 2008

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The number of truck-involved traffic fatalities declined 12 percent in 2008, dropping from 4,822 in 2007 to 4,229, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week. In addition, the number of truck occupant deaths decreased 16 percent in 2008, from 805 in 2007 to 677.

The truck-involved fatality rate is now at its lowest since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping those statistics in 1975. “This achievement is great for all highway users,” says Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations. “We must build upon this and look toward long-term improvements.”

The overall number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States decreased 9.7 percent from 41,259 in 2007 to 37,261 in 2008, the lowest level since 1961. The fatality rate for 2008 was 1.27 persons per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, about 7 percent below the rate of 1.36 recorded for 2007.

Substantial declines occurred in virtually every major category, led by declines in passenger car occupant fatalities, which dropped for the sixth year in a row, reaching the lowest level since DOT began keeping records. Light truck occupant fatalities fell for the third straight year. Alcohol-impaired fatalities also declined by more than 9 percent over 2007.

Continuing this trend, the January-March 2009 estimate of 7,689 deaths represents a nine percent decline from a year ago; it was the 12th consecutive quarterly decline. The fatality rate for the first quarter of 2009 reached 1.12 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Preliminary data collected by the Federal Highway Administration showed that VMT during the first three months of 2009 declined by about 11.7 billion miles.

The 2008 annual statistics did report, however, that motorcycle deaths increased for the 11th straight year and now account for 14 percent of all highway fatalities.

“While the number of highway deaths in America has decreased, we still have a long way to go,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, adding that the country has made major strides in increasing seatbelt use, curtailing impaired driving, making roads and highways safer, and maximizing vehicle safety.

NHTSA’s 2008 traffic safety data can be found at www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811172.pdf.