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High Gas Prices, Bad Economy Cause Highway Deaths To Drop To 1960s Levels

Shirley Ybarra
April 7, 2009, 10:58am

The AP reports that the drop in vehicle miles travelled (caused by high gas prices) helped reduce highway deaths last year:

U.S. highway deaths in 2008 fell to their lowest level in nearly 50 years, the latest government figures show, as the recession and $4 per gallon gas meant people drove less to save more.

Safety experts said record-high seat-belt use, tighter enforcement of drunken driving laws and the work of advocacy groups that encourage safer driving habits contributed to the reduction in deaths.

Preliminary figures released by the government Monday show that 37,313 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year. That's 9.1 percent lower than the year before, when 41,059 died, and the fewest since 1961, when there were 36,285 deaths.

A different measure, also offering good news, was the fatality rate, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. It was 1.28 in 2008, the lowest on record. A year earlier it was 1.36.

Traffic Fatalities are one of the 12 categories in Reason Foundation's Annual Highway Report, which ranks each state's highway system on congestion, safety, and cost-effectiveness.


Shirley Ybarra is Senior Transportation Policy Analyst


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