As a personal injury lawyer in South Carolina , I was very encouraged to hear that traffic deaths are now the lowest they've been since 1950. According to a study done by the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a 10 percent drop in car accident fatalities from the year before. This brought the number down to 33,808 for 2009, comparable to the 1950 statistic of 33,186. In addition, people are actually driving more than they were in the 50's, so when you think about it accidents per mile driven are way down. The study found that per 100 million miles driven, there are 1.13 fatalities, the lowest it's ever been.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claims, "At the Department of Transportation, we are laser-focused on our top priority: safety. Today's announcement shows that America's roads are the safest they've ever been. But they must be safer. And we will not rest until they are." So why the decline? It could be that more people are using their seat belts than in the past. On average, about 85% of drivers are not buckling up. Also, people may be restricting their driving due to the economy. Instead of making trips for enjoyment (which is a common factor in accidents) people are just driving to work and for running pertinent errands.
In addition, traffic deaths caused by alcohol or drug use are down by 7.4 percent, but are still responsible for about a third of car accident fatalities. Hence, targeting drunk drivers is still a major focus for the NHTSA and local law enforcement agencies. It seems that deaths declined in all categories, including motorcycle accidents which had 850 fewer fatalities than previously.