The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roads last year reached a record low, while seat belt use continued to climb, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced April 6, 2009. Based on a statistical projection, in 2008 the fatality rate in motor vehicle traffic crashes is estimated to have dropped to 37,313 a 9.1-percent decline from the 41,059 fatalities reported in 2007. The actual count of fatalities will be reported in August 2009.
Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2008 dropped by about 3.6 percent to 2,922 billion miles. The fatality rate, computed per 100 million VMT, dropped from 1.36 in 2007 to 1.28 in 2008.
A month-by-month comparison with the 2007 fatality counts shows that August is the month with the highest fatalities (3,569), while March has the lowest fatalities (2,797). New state-by-state data shows that Michigan has the highest seat belt use, while Massachusetts registered the lowest.
The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 37, 313 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008 – the lowest number of deaths on U.S. roads since 1961, when 36,285 lives were lost. The nation also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded in 2008 at 1.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.36 in 2007. The survey shows that jurisdictions with primary belt laws continue to exhibit higher use rates than those with weaker laws. In Maine, for example, belt use increased from 79.8 percent to 83 percent a year after the state enacted a primary seat belt law.
Additionally, survey results released also showed sixteen states and territories achieved use rates of 90 percent or higher. Those states are Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Maryland, Iowa, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois and the District of Columbia. The states with the lowest use rates, all below 70 percent, were Massachusetts, Wyoming and New Hampshire. In Michigan, the belt use rate was 97.2 percent in 2008. By contrast, Massachusetts was 66.8 percent.
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