Good news this morning (unless you're an undertaker): traffic fatalities fell sharply during the first ten months of 2008, clocking in about 10% lower than 2007. The data comes via two separate studies--one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the other from the Governors Highway Safety Association. From January through October 2008, the former noted 31,110 traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways, down 9.8% from 2007's figure of 34.502 during the same period. The GHSA study has yielded similar results.
Some of the reasons for the decline should be fairly obvious:
- High gas prices combined with rising unemployment kept many drivers off the road altogether.
- Smart, money-conscious folks drove slower (and presumably safer) to boost fuel economy.
- The auto industry has boosted car safety via air bags, anti-rollover systems, and other enhancements.
Others reasons for the drop are a little more oblique. For example:
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been funneling volumes of crash test videos to TV networks, essentially shaming automakers into making safer cars.
- The general public has a less-tolerant attitude toward buzzed- and drunk- driving, making both less socially acceptable and presumably less common.
Of course, 31,110 fatalities is still far more than anyone would like. But given everything else the U.S. is facing these days, we'll take good news where we can get it.