Bridgeway Center, Inc. Driving Schools Like Us On Facebook
(850) 833-7474 Ft. Walton Beach  (850) 689-7938 Crestview
137 Hospital Drive, Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32548 • 351 N Ferdon Blvd., Crestview, FL 32536
questions@safedriveschools.org

Report Finds Fewer Deaths on the Nation's Roads

by MATTHEW L. WALD

WASHINGTON - Driving is getting a lot safer, although no one is quite sure why. The risk of dying a traffic accident has dropped nearly 18 percent since 2005, including a drop of 7 percent in the first half of this year, according to preliminary statistics released by the Transportation Department. The recession and high gas prices have helped a bit by reducing the number of miles traveled, and perhaps cutting average speed, at least for part of the period. But that is a small part of the improvement. Measured by deaths per miles traveled, a yardstick that filters out the effect of less driving, the death rate is down by 16.1 percent from 2005 to the first half of 2009.

Government officials and private experts cite a variety of factors. Highways are built or renovated with more consideration for safety. Seat belt use rose over the period, although some experts are skeptical about the accuracy of official counts. As old vehicles are retired, the ones that replace them have more air bags, antilock brakes and stability control systems, which sense when a car is in a skid and apply a brake to one wheel to help the driver regain control. In addition, new restrictions are in place for licenses for teenagers.

"We don't know every reason, but we think there's a combination of reasons," said Ronald Medford, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Charles A. Hurley, a highway safety expert and chief executive of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, sad the recession was probably partly responsible because it had cut down on discretionary driving, notably "late-night bar-to-bar traffic." But Mr. Hurley said the reduction in alcohol-related crashes was just one component of the trend. The traffic fatality toll is still huge, 16,626 people in the first half of this year, according to the preliminary count. "We still have far too many families losing their loved ones every day in this country from distracted driving, drunk driving and not using their seat belt," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. But the toll was down from more than 20,000 in the first half of 2005. (The pattern for the first half of this decade was mixed, with small increases in deaths in late 2005 and small decreases for a few quarters before that.) The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit trade group that performs crash tests, calculated that if car designs had been frozen in 1985, with no further safety improvements, death rates by 2004 would have been about 15 percent higher than was actually the case.

To make the point about safety improvements, the institute crashed a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air against a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. The video, titled "Crash test: 1959 Chevy Bel Air," is on YouTube. the dummy in the Bel Air, without a seat belt or an air bag, illustrates why death rates in the 1960s were above 4 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and are now barely above 1.

Some factors cut the other way. The number of people over 65 is rising rapidly, and the elderly are far more likely to die from crashes that would not kill younger people. And the number of electronic distractions seems destined to grow. The chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Deborah A. P. Hersman, cited driver fatigue as an area where safety could improve. Some researchers are developing technology that watches drivers for signs of sleepiness. Countering the safety trend is the number of motorcycle deaths, which rose steadily through the end of last year. (The half-year preliminary numbers did not break out categories like motorcycles.) Motorcycle deaths reached 5,290 last year, or 14 percent of total fatalities. In 1997, there were 2,116 motorcycle deaths, 5 percent of fatalities. The number of people who die, which is known with much greater precision than the number of injuries or crashes, is "a composite of the positive trends and the negative trends," said Mr. Hurley, the MADD chief executive. He said he would like states to require anyone convicted of driving drunk to use devices that prevent their cars from starting if they have been drinking.


Bookmark and Share Subscribe

 
COURSES >>
 
Drivers Education
  Drug Alcohol Traffic Education (DATE)
  A+ Driving Lessons
  Safe New Attitude Program (SNAP)
 
Traffic School
  Basic Driver Improvement (BDI)
  Intermediate Driver Improvement (IDI)
  Advanced Driver Improvement (ADI)
  Aggressive Driver Course
  Distracted Driver Course
 
DUI & Substance Abuse
  DUI Level I
  DUI Level II
  Special Supervision
  Ignition Interlock Device (IID) Program
 
Mature Drivers
  Mature Driver Program
  Senior Driving Skills Assessment
 
Fleet Services
  SAFER Driver Challenge
  Van / High Profile Vehicle Course
 
Other Courses
  Golf Cart & Utility Vehicle Safety Program
  Notary Public Training
  Parenting Course
  Safe Boating Program
 
Out of State Defensive Driving Courses
  Arizona
  Idaho
  New Jersey
  New York
  Oregon
  Virginia
  Washington
 

  About | Sitemap | Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2007-2016 Bridgeway Center, Inc.