U.S. traffic accident deaths down, but there is still plenty of room for improvement

June 28th, 2018

By Dean I Weitzman, Esq.


For the first time in almost 60 years, fewer people died in traffic accidents on U.S. roadways last year than in any year since 1950, according to new statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The death toll for 2009 was 33,308 people, which was a 9.7% decline from 2008 when 37,423 people died on U.S. roads, according to the NHTSA figures. The 2009 death toll was the lowest in our nation since 1950, when 33,186 people died.

The number of victims injured in motor vehicle crashes was also down in 2009. Some 2.22 million people were hurt in vehicle crashes in 2009, compared to 2.35 million injured in 2008, according to the government figures.

9 9 2010 car accident iStock 000002729658XSmall

Image credit: ©

Obviously, these are positive trends. There are several likely contributing factors, including safer vehicles being built and driven today with airbags, traction control and roll-over prevention systems, higher rates of seatbelt use, mandatory seatbelt laws and improved public education campaigns against drunk driving.

It’s also probably a result of new traffic laws against texting or using handheld cell phones while driving in many cities and states, as well as improvements in roads, traffic signals and highways. It’s also a result of fewer total miles being driven by motorists across the nation due to the economy, according to the experts.

But even with all of that, the carnage on our roads continues and more needs to be done.

In an Associated Press story today on the latest statistics, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood described the lower death toll figures as “a landmark achievement for public health and safety,” but added that the numbers are still too high.

“While we’ve come a long way,” LaHood told the AP,  but “we have a long distance yet to travel.”

Amen to that.

In the Delaware Valley, here are the NHTSA death toll figures for the Tri-State area:

*Pennsylvania – 1,256 fatalities in 2009, which is a 14% reduction from 2008 when 1,468 people died on roads here. Of those deaths, 34% were alcohol-related in 2008, compared to 32% in 2009.

*New Jersey – 583 traffic deaths in 2009, which is down 1.2% from 590 deaths in 2008. Of those deaths, 26% were alcohol-related in 2008, compared to 25% in 2009.

*Delaware – 116 fatalities in 2009, which is down 4.1% from 121 deaths in 2008. Of those deaths, 36% were alcohol-related in 2008, compared to 38% last year.

Across the nation, the number of deaths in alcohol-related crashes stood at 10,839 in 2009, which was a 7.4% reduction from the 11,711 alcohol-related traffic accident deaths in 2008.

These lower death tolls are a good starting point, and we hope these trends continue, but even at 33,308 traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2009, that’s still a lot of victims.

According to the NHTSA, “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 3 and 34.”

That’s a very sobering statistic, and one that we must continue to reduce.

Many of those deaths are inexcusable, the result of drunk drivers, inattentive drivers or some other cruel twists of fate on the nation’s roads.

Yes, things are getting better but let’s not lose sight of the fact that 33,308 people died in traffic accidents last year, causing grief and devastation to their families and friends.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a vehicle accident, give MyPhillyLawyer a call and find out about your rights and options.

We are here if you need us.

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