Updated 2009 fatality and injury data released by the Department of Transportation show that highway deaths fell to 33,808 for the year, even though estimated vehicle miles traveled increased slightly from 2008. The number of highway deaths in 2009 is the lowest number since 1950. In addition, 2009 saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded: 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009, compared to 1.26 deaths for 2008.
“At the Department of Transportation, we are laser-focused on our top priority: safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today’s announcement shows that America’s roads are the safest they’ve ever been. But they must be safer. And we will not rest until they are.”
As part of the Department’s campaign to reduce traffic fatalities, it will convene a National Distracted Driving Summit on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C., bringing together leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related crashes to address challenges and identify opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts.
In addition to the record-breaking drop in fatalities, the number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 declined for a 10th straight year in a row, falling an estimated 5.5 percent from 2008, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
Alcohol impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent in 2009 – 10,839 compared to 11,711 reported in 2008. Overall, 33 states and Puerto Rico experienced a decline in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008.
“Today’s numbers reflect the tangible benefits of record seat belt use and strong anti-drunk driving enforcement campaigns,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “But we are still losing more than 30,000 lives a year on our highways, and about a third of these involve drunk driving. We will continue to work with our state partners to strictly enforce both seat belt use and anti-drunk driving laws across this nation, every day and every night.”