2009 Traffic Fatalities Lowest Since 1950

A report just out pegs the 2009 US traffic fatalities just over 33,000! The figures we are all used to is 40,000 to 50,000. The miles driven is about 16 times! than in the 50’s, so driving must be 16 times as safe for a fatality point of view.

Actual muber of accidents have kept increasing, as have injuries, but cars are so much safer now that fatal crashes are greatly diminished.

I give most of the credit to car design,followed by better roads (Interstate System), and more advanced traffic control. The economic slowdown has no doubt helped the drop in the last few years as well.

I don’t see any proof that drivers are any better than they were in 1950.

Any comments?

Cars are better, roads are better, yet speed limits are the same. I suppose an argument could be made that’s it’s necessary because we just hand out drivers licenses like candy in this country.

2009…Gas prices were over $3/gal…thus less driving

Actually, speed limits are higher than they were in the 70’s. (Remember the national maximum of 55?)

Not less than in the 50’s, in fact it’s quite a bit more.

Adjusted for inflation, gas prices are about the same as they were in 1954.*

Sorry, I meant miles driven, not gasoline cost.

But not any higher than the were in the 50’s when cars were even worse than they were in the 70s.

The 2010 fatality rate is 1.1 per 100M passenger miles driven. Considering 15,000 average annual miles per driver, you?d have to drive for 6,600 years before dying in a car crash. Too dangerous? Try flying 15,000 mile per year. It would take 135,000 years before dying in a plane crash.

Car wrecks make front page news especially when some drunk running a stop sign in a pickup kills a family of four in a fiery car crash. Plane crashes make better news. Neither happen very often nor kill that many people statistically.


Miles driven are about 16 TIMES that in 1950! Fatalities per million miles started dropping with seat belts, crash padding, better doors & locks and collapsible steering columns. When many states adopted compusory seat belt wearing, they dropped further.

And there were less then 1% of the cars on the road in the 50’s that there are now. Comparing now to the 50’s is MEANINGLESS. There is no commonality to make a logical comparison.

Thanks Mike; the thrust of my post was that inspite of a 16 fold increase in miles driven since 1950, the fatality numbers are the same.

In 1950 there was a car for every 4 Americans, and the population of the US was 152 million or so. That would give us 38 million passenger cars on the road.

Last year there were about 340 million Americans. I don’t know how many registered motor vehicles are now but the ratio is a lot higher, and they are driven much further per year.

A lot due to fact of safety features, especially air bags, but also crumple zones, better restraints, etc. Which also explains why cars are “totaled” by insurance co.'s much faster now days. (cost of repairing those safety features) Can’t put a price on safety or lives though. This is great news!

Yes.but what does that mean?? I can’t see how you can make ANY conclusions from that comparison. There are way too many differences to make any conferences.

If I am not mistaken, in the '50s, a death counted as a traffic fatality if the victim died within one year of the accident from his injuries.
Somewhere during the 70’s or 80’s, I’m not sure which year, that time was lowered to 30 days. This change alone caused a significant drop in recorded traffic fatalities.

Emergency medicine has improved substantially since 1950, and our ability to get severely injured people to the hospital has improved, too. How many Medevac helicopters were there in the 50’s (or 60’s or 70’s)? It seems to me that if someone makes it 30 days today, there is a strong likelihood that hey will live a lot longer. Their quality of life might not be attractive, but that is not part of the statistics we are looking at.

Excellent point…My parents grew up about 40 miles from a city…All of us kids were born at home…The CLOSEST medical facility was 30+ miles away…and it would take you 1-2 hours to get there because most of it was dirt road. My mom almost died giving birth to my younger sister (1955)…Lost a lot of blood giving birth…barely made it to the hospital on time…Dad had to drive her (and all the kids). Couldn’t wait for an ambulance…they were at the hospital…1-2 hours out…1-2 hours to hospital…

As I said there are so many differences any comparison is meaningless.

With 16 times as many miles driven by all cars and still only 33,000 fatalities, driving must be proportionately a lot safer.

The same has happened in the airline industry, where the switch away from piston engines and high octane gas, as well as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), plus better air safety standards, has dramatically reduced the number of crashes and fatalites per 100,000,000 miles traveled.

My original post asks for what factors you guys believe are most important. That’s what some of the variables are!

The above post is an attempt to show that there are likely 10 times as many cars on the road today (not 100 times), driven probably 50% more miles per year each.

One factor not mentioned so far is the fact that in 1950 the US car fleet was considerably older, since there was no car production from late 1942 to 1946, and the car fleet on average had a lot of miles and wear on it.

Maybe we should look at why 2009 was lower than 2008. Perhaps it was the extra 3.2 million people not driving to and from work. 2009, 9.6% @ 14.9 million people vs 5.6% in 2008, if I did the math correctly.

With 16 times as many miles driven by all cars and still only 33,000 fatalities, driving must be proportionately a lot safer.

That’s the EXACT point I’m making…thank you for proving it for me.

You come up with a conclusion without considering ALL other factors. There are way too many other factors to say that driving MUST be proportionately safer. You never considered cell-phones (which bring police and ambulance faster)…10-20 times MORE Trauma clinics now then there were 50 years ago…Doctors being certified and trained in Trauma…Drastic increases in medicine and technology…50 years ago it wasn’t uncommon for someone to die from a broken bone.

As I said…WAY TOO MANY DIFFERENCES to make ANY valid logical conclusion.