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Despite covering more miles, we're staying safer as a nation of motorists, bikers, and commuters. Distilled to their simplest, that's what federal officials have found with newly released 2009 injury and fatality data.
That's for 2009—it takes a while to crunch all the data, gathered through the government's fatality analysis reporting system (FARS).
Traffic fatalities were down by an astounding 9.7 percent in 2009—to 33,808—while the number of fatal crashes fell by 9.9 percent, to 30.797.
Injuries fell for the tenth year in a row, down 5.5 percent just versus 2008. All crashes—including fatalities, injuries, and those only with property damage—were down 5.3 percent versus just a year earlier.
In 2009, overall vehicle miles traveled increased by 0.2 percent versus 2008 levels, the Department of Transportation estimates.
Yet overall fatalities fell to 33,808 during 2009; that figures out to about 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicles in 2009, versus 1.26 in 2008.
The DOT notes that motorcycles finally broke an eleven-year trend of rising fatalities; deaths in motorcycle crashes fell by a significant 850 from 2008 to 2009.