The National Academies

Traffic Deaths Fall to Lowest Level Since 1949

By Maureen O'Leary

March 16 - The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that traffic fatalities in 2010 fell to their lowest levels since 1949 despite a significant increase in the number of miles that Americans drove during the year. The number of traffic fatalities fell 3 percent between 2009 and 2010 -- from 33,808 to 32,788.

The Transportation Research Board has many reports related to traffic safety. Recently, Achieving Traffic Safety Goals in the United States: Lessons From Other Nations compared traffic safety practices and strategies in countries around the world and found that those most successful at reducing traffic deaths have performance-based safety management programs. In 2008, TRB released Safety Research on Highway Infrastructure and Operations: Improving Priorities, Coordination, and Quality, which recommends the development of a process for identifying and prioritizing research needs and opportunities in highway safety. Another report, Buckling Up: Technologies to Increase Seat Belt Use called for the deployment of enhanced systems to remind motorists to use seat belts. TRB's Strategic Highway Research Program 2 -- which is researching solutions for highway safety, renewal, reliability, and capacity -- includes a 'naturalistic' driving study that will record and analyze the driving behavior of a large sample of drivers in personal vehicles, to help inform the development of new and improved safety measures.

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