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DOT Releases Preliminary Estimates Of 2002 Highway Fatalities
NHTSA 13-03
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Contact: Rae Tyson
Telephone: (202) 366-9550

DOT Releases Preliminary Estimates
Of 2002 Highway Fatalities

Alcohol-related highway fatalities increased again in 2002 while the majority of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing safety belts, according to preliminary estimates from the U. S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

With overall highway fatalities also up slightly from 2001, the grim statistics underscore the need for better state laws that address the causes of the problem and stricter enforcement.  In 2002, an estimated 42,850 people died on the nation’s highways, up from 42,116 in 2001.  The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained unchanged at 1.51, according to preliminary estimates.

It was the highest number of fatalities since 1990.

"If we are ever going to reduce the needless deaths on the nation's highways, we're going to need the American public to bear greater responsibility for their personal safety," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Fatalities in rollover crashes involving sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks accounted for 53 percent of the increase in traffic deaths.  In 2002, 10,626 people died in rollover crashes, up 4.9 percent from 10,130 in 2001.

The preliminary report also notes some significant progress.

NHTSA said that deaths of children seven and under dropped to historic low levels. In 2002, 980 children seven and under were killed, down from 1,053 in 2001. Pedestrian deaths also declined to 4,776, a 2.2 percent drop from 2001. The number of persons injured in crashes also declined from an estimated 3,033,000 in 2001 to 2,914,000 in 2002, almost a four percent drop.

NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person.

"As a nation, we should be outraged over the loss of nearly 43,000 of our friends, neighbors and family members," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. "All of us – individuals as well as government – should resolve to make highway safety our highest public health priority."

The preliminary 2002 statistics also continue to show the increased risk of death and injury when drivers and passengers do not wear safety belts: 59 percent of those killed in crashes last year were not belted.

NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also shows that, in 2002:

NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual report on traffic fatality trends.  The final 2002 report, pending completion of data collection and quality control verification, will be available in August.  Summaries of the preliminary report are available on the NHTSA web site at:


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