US car deaths fall but cyclist and pedestrian tolls rise

 

Washington

Deaths behind the wheel of an automobile fell last year to the lowest level since the Truman administration, but there was an increase in fatalities among bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders and big-rig truck drivers, according to federal figures released Monday.

Overall, traffic deaths dropped to 32,367, almost 2 percent lower than the 2010 total, and a 26 percent decline since a peak in 2005.

The downward national trend began before the recession took some drivers off the roads, and it accelerated last year. It has been attributed to several factors, including increased use of air bags, seat belts and other vehicle safety features, improved roadway designs, and increasing awareness of the perils of driving drunk.

"In the past several decades, we've seen remarkable improvements in both the way motorists behave on our roadways and in the safety of the vehicles they drive," said David L. Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said police enforcement of seat belt and sobriety laws have played a key role.

But there already have been indications that the downward trend has ended. Preliminary data for this year indicated that fatalities increased 13.4 percent in the first three months of this year, and the total for April, May and June was 5.3 percent higher than in 2011.

"As we look to the future, it will be more important than ever to build on this progress by continuing to tackle head-on issues like seat belt use, drunk driving and driver distraction," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has made distracted driving the cornerstone of his safety agenda.

The NHTSA data said the number of people killed in distraction-related accidents increased almost 2 percent, to 3,331, from 2010 to 2011. Federal and highway safety advocates said the increase may reflect better reporting of the distraction issue rather than an increase in fatalities.

The number of people injured in distraction-linked crashes declined by 7 percent, to 387,000 people, the federal agency said.

The evolution in travel patterns, relaxed safety standards and an improving economy were singled out for three of the areas in which fatalities bucked the downward trend.

The number of bicyclists killed increased by 8.7 percent, and pedestrian deaths were up 3 percent.

"Our culture is beginning to move away from driving and toward healthier and greener modes of transportations," said Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. "We need to be able to accommodate all these forms of transportation safely."

Adkins said an increase of more than 2 percent in motorcycle deaths was attributed to the fact that "state legislatures continue to listen to anti-helmet rider groups and ignore clear research supporting helmet use and laws."

The largest increase was a 20 percent jump in the number of drivers and passengers of large trucks killed in accidents.

"There are more questions than answers about what is occurring here," Adkins said, "but this could be in part [due] to a strengthening economy."

The data, collected under a federal system called the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), indicated that there were 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.

The FARS statistics are based on numbers collected by each state, and Adkins cautioned that preliminary data indicate that the decline in traffic deaths may end this year.

"Based on what we are hearing from states, we fully expect an increase in fatalities for 2012," he said.

In 2011, 36 states had fewer road fatalities, led by Connecticut (100 fewer fatalities), North Carolina (93 fewer), Tennessee (86 fewer), Ohio (64 fewer) and Michigan (53 fewer).

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £145 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?