The government has some good news for you: The number of traffic fatalities is at its lowest level since 1961. Injuries are down, too.
That’s according to a new report (PDF) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The bad news — and calling it that may be a stretch — is that not all roads are equally safer.
But let’s stay positive for a moment. Here’s the takeaway from the report:
There was a 9.7 percent decline in the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, from 41,259 in 2007 to 37,261, according to NHTSA’s 2008 Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
This decline of 3,998 fatalities is the largest annual reduction in terms of both number and percentage since 1982.
More than 90 percent of this reduction was in passenger vehicles, which make up over 90 percent of the fleet of registered vehicles.
Passenger car occupant fatalities declined for the sixth consecutive year, and are at their lowest level since NHTSA began collecting fatality crash data in 1975.
The injury stats are also encouraging (see chart at the top of this post).
In 2008, an estimated 2.35 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, compared to 2.49 million in 2007.
The estimated number of people injured in crashes is at its lowest point since NHTSA began collecting injury data in 1988.
This constitutes the ninth consecutive yearly reduction in people injured.
But back to highway deaths. A breakdown of the data reveals that city drivers were bigger beneficiaries of this trend than their country cousins.
In other words, the declines were about a percentage point greater for urban drivers, and the number of fatalities were less. And how about that “unknown” category? Depending on where those accidents fit in, they could skew the numbers one way or the other. (Where’s an unknown road, anyway? The only time I’ve ever seen one is on my navigation system.)
This report has been overshadowed by allegations that NHTSA withheld the results of a survey that suggested multitasking and driving were dangerous. Which is too bad. The government, and to some extent, car manufacturers, deserve some credit for making travel safer for everyone.