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New England saw over 18% more fatalities in 2010 than 2009  (Source: Detroit News)
Less deaths thanks to safer cars and other factors

Despite all the warnings and talk about traffic fatalities related to distracted driving and texting while driving, many continue these unsafe activities. Despite the continued ignoring of law in many states by many drivers, the death rate from traffic fatalities has declined in 2010.

What's impressive about the decline in deaths from traffic accidents in 2010 is that it happened despite the fact that more driver miles were reported in 2010. This is the fifth straight year that a reduction in fatalities on the nation's highways has been recorded. In 2010, the number of deaths in on the roads in America dropped to 32,788. That is the lowest number since 1949 according to federal regulators.

Fatalities also declined 3.2% compared to the number from 2009. The highway miles increased in 2010 to about 20.5 billion miles more than in 2009.

However, there are three areas in the U.S that saw an increase in traffic fatalities in 2010. The areas include New England and the Midwest with fatalities up 18.9% in New England and 3.9% in the Midwest. The figures are based on projections with final numbers to be released this summer.

The 2010 fatality rate is expected to be 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled; the rate was 1.13 per 100 million miles in 2009.

"Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news and it proves that we can make a difference," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving and encourage drivers to put safety first."

LaHood is one of the driving forces behind the bans on texting while driving and the push to hands free technology. However, LaHood isn't opposed to seeking bans on hands free tech as well if it is found to contribute to accidents on the nation's roads. The reduced deaths are attributed to better policing of drunk drivers and safer cars among other things.

David Strickland from the NHTSA said, "NHTSA will continue pressing forward on all of our safety initiatives to make sure our roads are as safe [as possible]."

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collision numbers?
By Talion83 on 4/1/2011 12:30:45 PM , Rating: 5
While decreased deaths is always a good thing, the number of collisions I believe is the more pertinent statistic. The drop in deaths could be a result of many other variables (ie: more newer cars on the road and better safety ratings).

The true question of if texting/talking on a phone being the cause of distracting drivers which is leading to more accidents isn't really going to be shown by death numbers.

RE: collision numbers?
By StraightCashHomey on 4/1/2011 12:45:26 PM , Rating: 2
This is exactly what I was thinking. Fatalities may be down, but what about the number of collisions?

RE: collision numbers?
By therealnickdanger on 4/1/2011 1:14:17 PM , Rating: 3
Ultimately, the total number of crashes isn't nearly as significant as the number of fatal and "life-altering" crashes. For example, one of the reasons roundabouts are becoming so popular in the U.S. (they've been in use in other countries for decades) is because they all but eliminate fatal and serious injury crashes. However, property damage crashes increase dramatically after installation. So then we have to ask - do we want people dying or do we want crumpled fenders? The choice becomes clear.

To answer your question though, overall crash numbers are down as well:

RE: collision numbers?
By mcnabney on 4/1/11, Rating: 0
RE: collision numbers?
By therealnickdanger on 4/1/2011 1:45:10 PM , Rating: 3
Why is the choice clear?

It's not clear to you because you don't have all the facts. Crashes carry a societal cost which factors in "wasted hours" as you put it such as emergency services, funeral costs, car repairs, roadway repairs/maintenance, lifetime earnings, hospitalization, etc. These range from ~$12,000 for a property damage crash (no injuries) all the way up to ~$7.1 million for a fatal crash. These are called "crash costs". These crash costs dictate funding for projects. It's a balance between reducing fatal and serious crashes while reducing the cost of projects and being accountable with taxpayer dollars.

Roads are meant to be efficient methods of transportation first with safety concerns being a secondary goal.

I can tell you from my 10 years of DOT experience that that is not true. From the ground up, roadways are built according to standards that hinge on safety.

RE: collision numbers?
By Solandri on 4/1/2011 2:05:03 PM , Rating: 2
Accident rates are difficult to track because not all accidents get reported. If you get into a minor fender bender with your neighbor which just scuffs your bumper, you're probably not going to call your insurance company about it.

Fatalities are nearly always reported, which makes it a pretty reliable comprehensive stat. Injuries requiring hospitalization is also another stat that NHTSA tracks.

The auto insurance industry probably has some data on financial losses from accidents, but I wasn't able to find it in a quick search of their site.

I can tell you from my 10 years of DOT experience that that is not true. From the ground up, roadways are built according to standards that hinge on safety.

I can attest to this. I've driven in many other countries, and the roads in Europe and the US/Canada are simply better designed from a safety standpoint. Little things you won't notice until they're gone, like how the highway is tilted just right on a curve, or how a road is angled against a hill to maximize visibility as you're approaching the peak, or how a road is curved in such a way that a vehicle losing brakes going downhill is directed away from oncoming traffic.

RE: collision numbers?
By FaaR on 4/1/2011 4:09:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why is the choice clear?

Because most sane people would not weigh being personally mildly inconvenienced in a roundabout versus other people dying in a regular straight-on road crossing.

Would that be trading one death for 300 additional accidents with moderate to no injuries?

300, why stop there when you're just pulling numbers out of your nether regions with nothing to support it, why not go for 3000, or 300,000,000?

Roads are meant to be efficient methods of transportation first with safety concerns being a secondary goal.

Sociopath much?

Whatever gave you that impression of roads?

RE: collision numbers?
By therealnickdanger on 4/1/2011 1:32:28 PM , Rating: 2
I realized after posting that link is for 2009, but 2010 will echo similar drops. Most states aren't even finished compiling 2010 crash data yet, but all signs so far point to decreases overall. I've been in this field for 10 years and the trend for everything has been reductions across the board, year after year.

The cars are safer, the road designs are safer, emergency services are better and faster, even education and public perception about safety is better. These all play a part.

RE: collision numbers?
By VahnTitrio on 4/1/2011 5:04:24 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are correct here. In the MSP area a lot of cable barriers have been put up on the highways to prevent crossover accidents (which almost always lead to a fatality). Now you just hit a cable barrier. I'm guessing accidents were up, particularly with how rough the winter has been (particularly here where November/December was the worst of it). The good news about winter around here is nobody can get going fast enough to have a serious collision.

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