I have mixed feelings today as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases preliminary information about road fatalities in 2009.
Read ABC coverage: "Officials Cite Education, Economy for Driving Deaths Hitting Record Lows"
First, I recognize that the data NHTSA collected indicate a positive trend:
- A decline in highway deaths of 8.9% from 2008 to 2009
- The lowest fatality rate--1.16 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled--on record
- The lowest overall number of deaths--33,963--since 1954
- 15 straight quarters of decline in the number of overall roadway deaths
Like NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, I am extremely encouraged by the news that the trend toward greater road safety continues.
But, I am also disturbed that we are still talking about nearly 34,000 preventable deaths a year. There are still too many people dying in traffic accidents every year. Just too many.
Now, we think that NHTSA's safety campaigns are working very well.
We've worked hard to make sure drivers are getting our "Click it or Ticket" and "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" messages on seat-belt use and impaired driving. And I have been on a personal tear to raise awareness about distracted driving. Our roads are safer; our vehicles are safer; and people are driving less.
Because, although these numbers are moving in the right direction, we won't rest while there are still deaths on America's roads.
Remember, we all have work to do. So please, buckle up, put away your mobile devices, and keep your mind on the road. I want everyone to get home safely.