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Traffic Deaths Fall As Road Safety Campaigns Raise Awareness

Established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has worked to promote motor vehicle and highway safety. For decades, the agency has monitored car crash statistics and trends and announced that for 2010, traffic fatalities were at their lowest levels since 1949.

Reporting a 3 percent drop in traffic-related deaths between 2009 and 2010, the NHTSA believes that a number of safety initiatives may be directly responsible. However, experts are concerned that other factors may have contributed, and that the results are not consistent across the country.

Safety Initiatives

Many drivers are aware of various national programs to promote safer driving habits. For passenger vehicles, enforcement efforts such as “Click It or Ticket,” as well as impaired and distracted driving campaigns, have educated the public about the perils and consequences of irresponsible driving.

For commercial vehicle operators and those in the trucking industry, the newly implemented Compliance Safety Accountability and increased law enforcement efforts have helped reduce crashes involving large trucks and buses.

States have enacted tougher driving laws that deal with the unanticipated risks of the nation’s technology-driven social culture. Laws regarding texting and other mobile device usage have made a difference. States have also implemented tougher penalties for impaired driving along with graduated driving privilege standards for inexperienced drivers and improved renewal standards for the elderly.

Law enforcement and legislators are not the only stakeholders making significant improvements in roadway safety. Automakers have begun to comply with stricter rating system standards, such as rear cameras and motion sensors that enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Inconsistent Results and Mitigating Factors

Still, at least one state, Pennsylvania, has reported a significant increase of 5.4 percent in state traffic fatalities. For the Keystone State, 1,324 roadway deaths occurred on state roads, which was up from 2009. Seat belt violations and younger and inexperienced drivers were factors contributing to the increase.

Some experts note that the overall drop in fatalities corresponds to the nation’s slow economic recovery. Review of NHTSA data showed a marked increase in the latter half of the year, which corresponded with an increase in miles traveled.

While decreases in human loss on our nation’s roadways is good news, still more work needs to be done to stop preventable crashes. Time will tell if current initiatives will continue to save lives and make our roads safer.