NSC: Despite Record-Low Traffic Deaths, Highway Safety Remains a Concern

March 18, 2011
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 34,700 motor vehicle fatalities occurred in 2010, marking a 3 percent decline from 2009 and the fourth consecutive year traffic fatalities have decreased. Based on motor vehicle fatality trends of past recessions, NSC suggests the present decline is partly a result of the poor economy – which means that as the economy rebounds, fatalities may once again rise.

Fourth-quarter 2010 data supported that concern by reflecting a slight increase in fatalities, NSC added.

“As encouraging as it is to see fatalities decreasing on our nation’s roads, the 2010 rate of decrease is less than a third of the previous year’s decrease,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We must remain vigilant in addressing roadway safety issues where the greatest impact can be made, such as distracted and teen driving. As miles traveled start to rise again from recession lows, we want to ensure the continuance of this downward trend.”

According to NSC, improved safety features in vehicles and greater visibility and enforcement of traffic safety laws – including those related to child passengers, safety belt use, distracted driving, impaired driving and teen driving – also contributed to the decrease.

In addition to devastating human loss, motor vehicle crashes present a significant national cost in lost wages and productivity, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage. The estimated cost of motor vehicle deaths, injuries and property damage in 2010 was $236.6 billion, a 3 percent decrease from 2009.

Motor vehicle fatality data is supplied monthly to NSC by traffic authorities in 50 states and the District of Columbia. This data is used to make current year estimates based on the latest final count from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NSC counts total motor vehicle-related fatalities that occur within a year of the crash, consistent with data compiled from death certificates by the NCHS, and includes those occurring on public highways and private property. This differs from the method used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which counts traffic fatalities that occur within 30 days of a crash and only those occurring on public highways.

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