Today, I am very pleased to announce that in 2010 the number of traffic fatalities in America fell to the lowest levels since 1949.
This drop comes despite a sharp increase in the number of miles Americans drove last year - 21 billion additional miles. In addition, the rate of road fatalities in the U.S. has also dropped to its lowest level since 1949. Over the last five years, traffic deaths have declined by 25 percent.
This is thanks to the combined efforts of DOT, states, law enforcement, safety organizations, and America's drivers who are taking personal responsibility for their driving habits. Overall, in 2010, the number of deaths fell three percent to 32,788. And the rate of fatalities per million miles traveled fell to 1.09 from 1.13 in 2009.
Despite this good news, we are not going to rest on our laurels. That's because the number of people killed in preventable roadway tragedies is simply too high; 30,000 deaths is 30,000 too many. And if you lost a loved one to a crash in 2010, or know someone who did, then you know exactly what I mean.
This Department will not stop pressing forward on road safety. We will continue working vigorously to protect the lives of everyone who uses our roadways.
- Urging automakers to swiftly and voluntarily report safety defects.
- Encouraging crash-prevention technologies like electronic stability control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning systems.
- Unveiling an updated 5-star rating system with more rigorous crash-test standards and improved consumer information about which cars perform best in collisions.
And NHTSA will continue successful enforcement efforts like Click It Or Ticket, Over The Limit Under Arrest, and our distracted driving initiative, Phone in One Hand Ticket In The Other. I want to particularly thank America's law enforcement professionals for their hard work on these fronts. I know they have a lot of other important jobs to do, but we also know that good laws work best when combined with good enforcement.
Public education efforts like our distracted driving website, distraction.gov. and the heartbreaking stories in our "Faces of Distracted Driving" video series have also helped. Through these initiatives, I hope Americans are getting the message that when we put the keys in the ignition we need to put our devices away.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the good work at the Federal Highway Administration in promoting Safety Edge and rumble strips to keep drivers from crossing the center line or driving off the road. Our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also working hard to ensure the safety of commercial trucks and buses, which can cause devastating losses of life if they are involved in an accident due to their sheer size.
Look, of all the missions of the Department of Transportation, nothing is more important--no priority is higher--than protecting the lives of our friends and neighbors. That's why NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “We will continue pressing forward on all of our safety initiatives to make sure our roads are as safe as they can possibly be.”
And that's why, as pleased as I am with the direction traffic fatality statistics are moving, and as proud as I am of the work this Department does, I know we will not rest.