According to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on May 7, highway fatalities have dipped to the lowest record in 60 years. This report was preliminary; final results will be available later this year.
Bloomberg News reported on May 8 that “the number of people killed on U.S. highways fell in 2011 for the sixth straight year, the longest streak of declines in the nation’s history.” Crash fatalities dropped 1.7 percent from 2010 to an estimated 32,310 in 2011. USA Today observed that the 2011 estimate of 32,310 deaths came in a year when the number of vehicle miles traveled fell by 35.7 billion, a 1.2 % decrease.
The Washington Post noted on May 8 that the decrease was “initially attributed to the economic downturn, but the decline has continued even as Americans rebounded from a 2009 low and began driving more miles in 2010 and last year.” Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, contended that a variety of factors can explain the decrease, including “high seat belt use, safer cars and safer roads,” as well as efforts to curb drunken driving. In addition, continued high gas prices and high unemployment may make optional trips, like those taken by teens, less frequent. The AP reported that Jackie Gillan, the president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, welcomed the trend but cautioned against complacency.
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