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Fatal car accident rates hit lowest point since 1949

For as long as there have been cars, there have been car accidents. While we may never get to a point where we see no accidents at all, federal and state regulators have been working hard to reduce accident rates by promoting safer cars and better driving habits.

New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows these efforts are paying off. In 2011, the nationwide car accident fatality rate was lower than any other year on record. The federal government started keeping track of car accident deaths in 1949.

Last year, 32,310 people died in motor vehicle accidents across the United States, equivalent to 1.09 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles travelled. This represents a 26 percent drop since 2005.

Unfortunately, car accident deaths aren’t down everywhere. The region including California, Arizona and Hawaii saw a 3.3 percent increase in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2011. Officials from the California Office of Traffic Safety told the Los Angeles Times that the reasons for the increase won’t be clear until the office has a chance to perform further analysis of the data.

Recession, High Gas Prices Partly Responsible

Researchers have pointed to a number of reasons for the overall decline in traffic deaths. Some think the combined effect of the recession and higher gas prices have caused Americans to spend less time on the road. Others point to safer cars, increased seatbelt usage and better first-responder reaction times.

Whatever the cause, the drop is certainly good news. However, traffic deaths still occur far too often. Hopefully, death rates will continue to drop in the coming years.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “U.S. Traffic Deaths at Record Low; Economy May Be a Factor,” Richard Simon, May 7, 2012.

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