A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NATION'S HIGHWAY FATALITY RATE
The data released by NHTSA contains some interesting information. The following information from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows that between 2003 and 2004:
- Motorcycle fatalities increased from 3,714 to 4,008, an 8% rise.
- Alcohol-related fatalities dropped from 17,105 to 16,694, a 2.4% decline.
- Rollover deaths among passenger vehicle occupants increased 1.1% from 10,442 to 10,553.
- Total fatalities in sport utility vehicles (SUVs) increased 5.6%, from 4,483 to 4,735, while fatalities in passenger cars, pickup trucks and vans decreased a total of 834.
- Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico had decreases in the total number of fatalities. The highest percentage of decreases were in the District of Columbia (-36%), Rhode Island (-20%), and Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska (-13%). The highest percentage increases were in Vermont (+42%), New Hampshire (+35%), New Mexico (+19%), and Alabama and Oklahoma (+15%).
- Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities dropped to 31,693 - the lowest since 1992. Declining fatalities in passenger cars are consistent with more crash-worthy vehicles in the fleet and increases in safety belt use.
- Pedestrian deaths declined 2.8% from 4,774 in 2003 to 4,641.
- Fatalities from large truck crashes increased slightly from 5,036 to 5,190.
- In 2004, 55% (down from 56% in 2003) of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts. This reportedly underscores the value of the need for states to adopt primary safety belt laws.
NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person. Safety should be a top priority for both the federal government - including Congress - as well as with the states. Each state has a responsibility to do its part to make our highways safer. However, Congress has to set the standard for the states to follow because of the flow of federal money into the states for highway construction and the like.
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