Updated 2010 Fatalities: Lowest Levels Since 1949

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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2010 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities in six decades.

2010 saw the lowest number of traffic fatalities in six decades. (boston.com)

In 1949, the United States had a total population that was right under 150 million people. In 2010, the population had swelled to more than double the 1949 level, to more than 307 million residents.

But even with the massive increase in population, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that updated and revised 2010 fatality and injury data showed highway deaths falling to 32,885 for the year. That’s the lowest number of fatalities recorded on American roads since 1949.

The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even with increased traffic and more drivers and cars on the road. American drivers logged nearly 46 billion more miles in 2010 compared to 2009, an increase of more than 1.6 percent in total miles driven.

“While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we’re making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roadways,” said Secretary LaHood. “Thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partner organizations over the past few decades, to save lives and reduce injuries, we’re saving lives, reducing injuries, and building the foundation for what we hope will be even greater success in the future.”

The updated information released by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009.

Other key statistics include:

  • Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
  • While driving under the influence of alcohol is still having a major impact, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
  • Not all areas saw declines, however. Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and large truck occupants.

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