Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Deaths on US highways down ever so slightly in 2006

According to a press release issued by the US Department of Transportation last Friday, Secretary Mary E. Peters said that traffic deaths on U.S. roads were down slightly in 2006 according to preliminary figures, but warned that far too many lives continue to be lost.

While the number of road deaths is projected to have declined slightly nationwide from 43,443 in 2005 to 43,300 in 2006, “even one death is too many,” Secretary Peters said. Also, more than half of the
occupants in passenger vehicles who were killed were not wearing their seat belts.

“Bad things happen when people don’t buckle up, and no one is immune from the damage and devastation that comes from not wearing a seat belt,” Secretary Peters said. She also praised New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine for his efforts to educate people about the need to buckle up, noting that “perhaps his pictures and his words about his crash will inspire people to buckle up every time they get in the car, no excuses.”

Crash-related injuries dropped 6 percent from 2.70 million in 2005 to 2.54 million in 2006, a rather remarkable decline. The preliminary figures also show that between 2005 and 2006, overall alcohol-related fatalities increased 2.4 percent from 17,525 to 17,941, continuing a worrisome trend in recent years as progress against alcohol-related fatal crashes has stalled. In better news, pedestrian deaths dropped slightly, from 4881 to 4768, and fatalities from large truck crashes dropped from 5212 to 5018, a 3.7 percent decline.

Unfortunately, motorcylist deaths increased for the ninth straight year, up 5.4 percent last year and rising a staggering 125 percent from a 3-decade low of
2056 in 1997 to 4798 in 2006. States really have to quit knuckling under to the motorcyclist lobby that proclaims, "let those who ride decide" to wear helmets. Helmet use must be made mandatory across the US. Slogans and calling for "education" won't get the job done.

The press release notes that the final 2006 report, pending completion of data collection and analysis, will be available in late summer.

We've still got a long, long way to go in getting the fatality count down.

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