08 May 2012

Traffic Deaths Continue To Fall

Traffic fatalities fell to an all time record low (1.10 per 100 million vehicle miles of travel) in 2010, for the fifth consecutive year and a on track to fall again in 2011. Traffic fatalities have fallen 24% per vehicle mile of travel since 2005. The seventeen quarter streak of decline traffic fatalities is the longest since record have been kept. The rate of fatalities per vehicle mile of travel predates the financial crisis and controls for both the cyclical economic effects that produce reduced motor vehicle use, and increases in population that drive up motor vehicle use. The declines are continuing despite a major increase in distracted driving accidents associated with rising cell phone use.

Even the absolute number of traffic deaths in 2010 (32,885), was lower than in any year since 1949 (when the nation's population and vehicle miles traveled was much lower), when there were 30,246 traffic deaths and the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel was close to 7. The number of injuries per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has also steadily fallen (the 75 in 2010 was identical to the figure for 2009 after many years of declines). The declining fatality rate isn't simply a matter of more injured people surviving their injuries.


About 31% of all traffic fatalities were in alcohol impaired driver accidents. Alcohol impaired accident fatalities have fallen more rapidly than traffic fatalities as a whole.  In Colorado, 127 traffic fatalities (28% of the total) involved legally drunk drivers in 2010.

Nighttime accident fatalities and fatalities involving drivers under the age of twenty-one have fallen significantly in the last few years.

Seatbelts were not being worn in a little more than half of all traffic accidents where there were fatalities and it was possible to determine if a seatbelt was being worn or not. About 3,341 people died in fatal traffic accidents who would have lived had they been wearing seatbelts in 2010, and about 706 people riding motorcycles died in traffic accidents that they would have survived had they been wearing motorcycle helmets.  Child car seats saved 303 lives in 2010.

Many driver's involved in fatal accidents were driving with suspended or revoked driver's licenses: 11% of drivers with no alcohol at the time of a fatal accident, 20% with a legal level of alcohol at the time of a fatal accident and 26% of drivers who were legally drunk at the time of a fatal accident.

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