We have some good news. The federal government has released an early estimate of traffic fatalities for the first half of this year, and the results are positive, with overall fatalities down about seven percent versus the same period last year.
Even adjusting for the fact that people are driving a lot less, the fatality rate is showing another pronounced decline—at a record-low 1.15 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), versus 1.23 in the first half of 2008.
According to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts summary, the second quarter of 2009 looks to be the 13th consecutive quarter in which fatalities have declined. Versus the equivalent periods in 2008, fatalities dropped an especially significant ten percent in the first quarter of 2009, while they declined four percent in 2008.
From full-year 2007 to full-year 2008, U.S. motor-vehicle traffic fatalities fell by nearly ten percent, to 37,261.
And relative to miles driven, fatalities remain at their lowest rate since the government began calculating them in 1961, and they've been on a year-to-year decline since 1986.
If you're concerned about safety in your next vehicle purchase, you'll want to check safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and NHTSA, along with TheCarConnection.com's vehicle reviews. In each Bottom Line we summarize how a vehicle matches up versus rival models, both in terms of safety features and occupant protection, and in the Safety section of our Full Reviews, we take a closer look at safety features, details, and crash-test results, and see what other sources have to say.