|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||NHTSA 12-00|
|Monday, April 3, 2000||Contact: NHTSA, Rae Tyson, (202) 366-9550|
U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that traffic fatality rates hit an all-time low in 1999. It is the third successive year of historic improvement in the highway death rate.
"This continued reduction in traffic fatalities is encouraging news," Secretary Slater said. "Safety is President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority, and these statistics show that our commitment to safety is paying huge dividends."
The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was 1.5 in 1999, down from 1.6 in 1998 and dramatically lower than the 5.5 rate in 1966. The total number of people killed was down slightly from 41,471 in 1998 to 41,345 in 1999.
The number of alcohol-related fatalities, 15,794, also dropped slightly in 1999 from 15,934 deaths in 1998, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to NHTSA's preliminary 1999 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) assessment, the number of pedestrians killed dropped 10 percent from 5,220 in 1998 to 4,695 in 1999. The number of deaths among children under five who were passenger vehicle occupants dropped slightly from 566 in 1998 to 543 in 1999. The number of people injured increased slightly from 3.19 million to 3.2 million.
"We've been saying it for years and it's still true: buckling up saves lives," said Acting NHTSA Administrator Rosalyn Millman.
The 1999 statistics also reflect the risks vehicle occupants take when they do not wear seat belts: 63 percent of those killed in crashes last year were not wearing seat belts. An unrelated NHTSA survey found that seat belt use dropped slightly in 1999 to 67 percent from 70 percent in 1998. This decline is not statistically significant each of the two survey results are accurate within plus or minus 3 percent at a 95 percent confidence level and may be attributable to a change in the survey methodology rather than a real decline in seat belt usage. The department is concerned that seat belt usage has not increased, and it will be reexamining seat belt usage improvement strategies.
The FARS analysis also shows that:
-- Motorcycle crashes killed 2,537 in 1999 compared to 2,284 in 1998.
-- Fatalities in crashes involving large truck crashes dropped from 5,374 in 1998 to 5,203 in 1999.
-- Speeding-related traffic deaths rose from 12,477 in 1998 to 12,672 in 1999.
NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual report on traffic fatality trends. The final 1999 report, pending completion of data collection and quality control verification, will be available in July. Summaries of the preliminary report are available from the NHTSA Office of Public and Consumer Affairs at (202) 366-9550 and on the Internet at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
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