Highway traffic deaths in the United States have hit their lowest level since they were first recorded in 1954. The Transportation Department said that according to its estimates, traffic deaths fell almost 9 percent in 2009 to under 34,000.
Furthermore, the fatality rate, which also takes into account the number of miles traveled, declined to the lowest on record at 1.16 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). This is down from 1.25 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2008.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has attributed this decline to a number of factors, including increased seat belt use, less drunk driving, and tougher enforcement of traffic laws. Others have cited the tough economy, which has led people to drive less.
Officials also believe the awareness programs, particularly those aimed at distracted drivers, have played a part in the traffic death decline. According to statistics, 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes were caused by driver distraction, such as eating or drinking, reading, listening to music, and talking or texting on cell phones.