This morning, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its annual report on traffic safety in America--and the news was good.
In 2011, highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011--the lowest level since 1949, and a nearly 2 percent decrease from 2010. The updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data shows 2011 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.
These declines are even more impressive when viewed with our overall highway safety gains in recent years. Since 2005, the number of traffic fatalities has declined by 26 percent.
There are many factors behind these record-breaking declines in traffic deaths, but three in particular are worth highlighting: safer cars, safer roads, and safer drivers.
NHTSA's Five-Star Safety Ratings Program, which measures crash worthiness and rollover safety, means that vehicles are the safest they've ever been. Infrastructure investments in our nation's highway system are improving crash barriers, installing better signs and lights, and creating safer intersections. And public awareness and enforcement campaigns like NHTSA's "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "Click It or Ticket" are reminding drivers about the importance of safe behaviors behind the wheel.
Today's news is thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partners, coupled with significant advances in technology and continued public education. But even as we celebrate the progress we’ve made in recent years, we know there is more work to do on addressing safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.
As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle issues like seat belt use, drunk driving, and distractions behind the wheel.
And DOT is more than up to the job.