|NHTSA - 04
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
|Contact: Rae Tyson
Telephone: (202) 366-9550
DOT Releases Preliminary Estimates
Of 2003 Highway Fatalities
Injuries from motor vehicle crashes declined slightly in 2003, to the lowest levels since such data have been kept, according to preliminary estimates from the U. S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The report on fatalities is mixed, however, with 43,220 deaths overall on the nation’s highways in 2003, up slightly from 42,815 in 2002.
NHTSA estimates that the fatality rate in 2003 remained unchanged from 2002 - 1.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Motorcycle fatalities rose by 348 to 3,592, an 11 percent increase. Passenger car fatalities declined by 778, but SUV fatalities increased by 456, 55 percent of which were rollover crashes. This increase was partially accounted for by increases in SUV sales.
Declining fatalities in passenger cars and injuries overall can be attributed to more crashworthy vehicles in the fleet and increases in safety belt use.
In 2003, 58 percent of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts. Forty percent (17,401) of all fatalities were alcohol-related, essentially unchanged from 2002. This underscores the value of the need for states to adopt standard safety belt laws and to increase enforcement of impaired driving laws.
"This problem will not be solved in Washington, DC, alone," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. "We need the cooperation of every American to drive responsibly, fasten his or her safety belt and care for each other’s safety on the roads."
NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person.
"Although we are seeing progress in some areas, our nation must take this epidemic seriously," said Dr. Runge. "Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in American children and young adults, but that can change through personal responsibility and enforcement of laws and regulations."
NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also shows that, in 2003:
NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce
the annual report on traffic fatality trends. The final 2003 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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