2009 Traffic Fatalities Lowest Since 1950

Thanks Dan; most of us are basically on the same page now.

Most of us will agree that the drop in fatalities is not due to 1) better driver training, 2) better drivers or 3) the ability by drivers to control their vehcles, in spite of ABS, AWD, better tires, and other passive features.

Because of the agendas that various agencies have, it may be impossible to precisely identify all the contributing factors and their degree of influence.

Airline safety has been much better researched, leading to vastly improved inspection, maintenance and repair standards, materials selection, crew training, etc.

In my area there is an intensive study on the effectiveness of the 911 system taking place, since several deaths have occurred that could have been prevented by more alert 911 switchboard staff. A major Eastern city did a detailed evaluation of their ambulance serve response and driver skills.

The Fire Dept in which I am a member responded last week to a two vehicle head-on collision.Both vehicles were traveling over 55mph

No brake skid marks.Both vehicles flipped and rolled multiple times.

Both vehicles were smashed completely. All the occupants lived.

I credit this to quick response times by the Fire Dept and EMTs.
Quick and well practiced extrication with the"jaws of life" and sawsalls.
Helicopter transport to trauma centers
3 point seatbelts and airbags
Vehicle construction

Oldwrench; great summation of the principal ingredients in making driving (and crashing) safer.

Excellent post Dan…

Now with that level of detail in the statistics you can start making logical inferences as to WHY…The OP post was nice to start this thread off…but there wasn’t enough data to make any logical conclusions.

I am shocked (or not) that no one has mentioned drunken drivers are being arrested much more now than in the past. Its sad to say that still half of our automobile related deaths involve alcohol, maybe its time to invoke a zero tolerance policy, stiffen drunk driving penalties, and add some time of alcohol sensors to vehicles.

Lets remember 2000 people got killed on 9-11, which is a whole different ballgame, and I am not try to be blase about those deaths, but in a matter of a month and a half afterwords the same number of people were killed by drunk drivers, and we still make excuses why its ok. Domestic terrorists = Drunken drivers?? The numbers speak louder than words.

Even sober drivers are horrible, doing just about anything other than driving, driving way too fast for conditions ect… Besides just because you don’t die in a crash doesn’t mean that your life isn’t changed, so we shouldn’t let these statistics lull us into a false sense of security.


I can’t believe how you turned this thread into a huge argument just to prove you’re right on semantics and statistics. I think the point of this thread was supposed to give people a positive “look at the gains we’re making” kind of feeling, but instead you repeatedly bashed the OP and other posters because they made generalizations without the statistics to back them up.

Yes, you’re probably right that driving is not as safe as some of the others implied, but it is safer than the 1950s. As a traffic engineer, I can tell you that car design has definitely made a huge impact on reducing fatalities, much more so than improved access to emergency services (and no, I’m not going to go dig up the statistics for you).

Maybe you need to step back and think about how you’re coming off to others, because right now I can tell you that the impressions are not good.

Civic, you’re quite right. Fewer people may die in car wrecks, but how many survivors are seriously (life-changing) injured? The armed forces have had fewer fatalities due to body armor and speedy medical aid, but a lot of very seriously injured servicemembers, who would have died in earlier wars, survived because of the excellent and timely emergency care they got. We may have fewer fatalities because the facilities, equipment and procedures available to the medical profession have greatly improved since 1950. But the seriously injured may not be markedly fewer. Too many variables here for a decisive answer.

There is a local case where a 21 year old drunken driver hit a 19 year old and 42 year old guy, they both survived, the 42 year will be in a wheel chair the rest of his life, but at least he can wheel himself around and talk, the 19 year old is completely paralized, he will require help with baths the rest of his life and requires around the clock care.

50 years ago this probably would have been a deadly crash for those 2 men, today due to safer cars it wasn’t. however look at what happened…

The drunken driver? She had no major injuries initially drove off and recieved a sentence of 15 years with 5 years suspended, she could get out in 5 years with good behavior.

The moral here is if you want to kill injure or maim somebody and get a slap on the wrist, do it behind the wheel of a car, preferrably while drunk. The best part is she was arrested on a dui before but her excellent attorney that mommy and daddy paid for got her off, only to on and paralize 2 people, the 19 year old was a soldier.

Yes, you’re probably right that driving is not as safe as some of the others implied, but it is safer than the 1950s.

AGAIN…You completely missed the point…

I NEVER said driving today was safer OR did I say it wasn’t as safe…Please show me where I did.

ALL I said was “based on the limited data that was posted by the OP” there was no way of to make the conclusion that driving is safer now then it was in the 50’s…PERIOD…NOTHING MORE.

I equate it to that stupid SyFy show “Ghost Hunters”. They get a EM reading that they can’t explain…and therefore it MUST be a ghost…Never considered the 100 other possible causes.

Some good news here. In our area the crackdown on drunk drving and not wearing seatbelts has started to pay off. Significant improvement has been measured from 2005 to 2009, although economic activity here is now higher than in 2005.

Since 2005, the number of fatal accidents is down 25% and the number of injury accidents is down 30%.

The number of fatal accidents involving alcohol used to be about 50% and is now down to 21%. Seat belt use is up as well. Of the collision accidents, only 7% caused injuries with seat belt use, while 32% caused injuries without belt use. No surprises here.

Needless to say the police department takes most of the credit here, but major governement education campaigns should get credit as well. Still, on an on-line driver’s test, only 11% achieved a passing score of 25 out of 30.

I work in a legal office and did research in this exact topic in defense of a client. Without getting into exaustive detail, there are many more accidents, but cars are better, roads are better - thus making travel safer and the ability to get to and transport victims is easier - rescue techiques are better and communication is better.

With reference to the economic slowdown, I’m not sure I agree. Most accidents happen near home. With less disposable income to spend on travel, families are likely to stay home or near home. I have nothing to back this up, I’m just suggesting.

Ahh, you’re hitting me where I live. I work in the Army’s JAG office in Germany. The Army in Europe has a zero tolerance level when it comes to drinking and driving. The Uniform Code of Military Justice describes drunk driving as .10 or higher; driving while intoxicated as ANY LEVEL OF IMPAIRMENT which impedes your ability to properly and safely drive your car. We relieved a lieutenant who blew a .03, but because she crashed her car, she was charged with DWI and resigned in leiu of court-martial. In Germany they often have checkpoints where they pull over 100%, or sometimes 10% or sometimes random cars. Every time you pull onto a military installation, you have to show your I.D. to get through the gate. If at a checkpoint or at a gate, they detect the odor of alcohol, they’ll administer a portable breath test. ANY level of alcohol will earn you a trip to the hospital where they’ll stick you and get a blood alcohol content. If the results are .05, you’ll get a career-stifling letter of reprimand. If the results are .1 or higher, the minimum disposition is a Field Grade Article 15. Because DUI’s are 100% preventable and avoidable, Commanders seldom dole out less that maximum punishment; reduction in pay grade, forfeiture of 1/2 month’s pay for two months, 45 days restriction and extra duty. Yet, in spite of this zero tolerance, there’s still a steady flow of drunk drivers. People are just people. We are all flawed and many of us drink and drive. This is why I prefer living in Germany. I mostly take the train.

Its sad to say that still half of our automobile related deaths involve alcohol…

That’s a baloney statistic, and I suspect you realize that.

Note that you didn’t say "half of our automobile-related deaths are proximately caused by alcohol; no, you used involve alcohol. This means, for example, that if (for instance) two sober drivers wreck into each other, and the crash involves and kills a drunken pedestrian–it goes in the books as a “fatality involving alcohol.”

Naturally, since there would be some level of accident/fatality even if all drivers were sober, this constitutes “cooking the books” a bit. This is why pro-increased-enforcement groups always cite “involving alcohol” vs. “caused by alcohol” statistics: makes their cause look more important.

We relieved a lieutenant who blew a .03, but because she crashed her car, she was charged with DWI and resigned in leiu of court-martial.

Did they determine that the 0.03% had any causal relationship at all to the accident? Remember that the generally-recognized accuracy of a BAC meter is +/- 0.02%. So she got canned for a BAC that barely exceeded the measuring error of the machine.

Unless she was driving like a total idiot at the time of the crash, it sounds like she got railroaded.

Your remark rminds me a little of Marion Barry’s (the mayor of Washington DC) who said, “Aside from the murders, the crime rate is quite low in Washington”.

There is a strong relationship between economic activity and miles driven. Commuter miles by definition, are relatively close to home. Whether the relationship between fatalities and economic activity is linear, I don’t know. But it does have an influence.

Boom times bring with them a sharp rise in fatal accidents, people drive faster, drink more, stay out later, especially in the summer. Ask a sociologist why.

Here’s a link that will tie you all into real accident data as well as the NHTSA studies.

Based on my reading of the data, Doc is right.

And I agree with him that the credit goes to far better car design, although I’m not sure I agree about the better road design. I’d need to think that one out some. I’m not sure that the new RT101 where everyone cruises at 75mph and above is a contributor to reduced accident deaths over the old RT101 where everyone went 55-60 mph.

As to drunk driving, we’re still not serious about stopping it. I’ll believe we’re serious when I begin to see the cars impounded (confiscated if convicted), licenses suspended and/or pulled, and drunk drivers involved in accidents serving jail time. The incidence of drunk drivers with repeated offenses is just plain way too common.

In 1950 we did not have the Interstate Highway System, launched by Dwight Eisenhower. Road fatalities on multi-lane divided highways are considerably lower in all countries that have them. At this time fatalities per million miles (on multi-lane expressways) in Western Europe are about half the US rate, although the traffic is denser. I attribute this mostly to better driver training standards,together with rigid vehicle inspections.

However, by the 1970s the system was mostly built and the fatality reductions started to be seen as a result of safer cars.

Article 111 (Drunken or Reckless Driving) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice describes intoxication as, “… any intoxication which is sufficient to impair the rational and full exercise of the mental or physical faculties.” If there is ANY measurable level of an intoxicant then it may be charged as reckless driving. You are correct in suggesting that the manner of driving may determine what tack the prosecutors and defenders take. But, in this particular command, any time there is a measurable amount of intoxicant, then it’s charged as a violation of Article 111. This Lieutenant was also charged with Article 108, Damage to Private Property, and Article 133, Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. She CHOSE to resign in lieu of squaring off in court. You cannot enter a plea of No Contest at a military court. She was by no means railroaded. She chose the least damaging path for herself and saved us thousands of taxpayer dollars.

I make this point in the interest of demonstrating that even zero tolerance policies don’t stop drunk driving. I point to the UCMJ because I am intimately familiar with it and the doctrine is at my fingertips. In the Army; you drink, you drive, you get caught or crash, you get fragged. That’s it. Period. They’re especially Draconian here in Germany because there are always alternatives. There’s a $250 taxi fund at the Staff Duty Officer (SDO) desk. There are also cell phones at the SDO that a Soldier can borrow if he doesn?t own one. If you need to get back to post, call a cab, have him take you to the SDO, then repay the fund later. There are trains. There are busses. There are taxis. A 100km taxi ride from Nurnberg to our post in Vilseck costs about $160, much less than the forfeiture imposed on the lowest ranking Soldier under an Article 15. There’s the Chain of Command and the NCO support channel. Finally, in a real pinch, the Staff Duty driver will come get a drunk Soldier. If the Soldier exercises this option, however, then he is the Staff Duty driver for the next four weekends. Yet, Soldiers, with all these alternatives at their fingertips and with full knowledge of the no tolerance/no mercy policies, still drink and drive.

Most importantly, we are all brethren. One of us goes down, then those who remain must shift left or right to fill the gap. This applies in garrison as well as downrange. Any one of us can call any other of us, and we will come get you.

I am in a position to see ALL the misconduct that our Soldiers commit… well, the ones who get caught. There’s a steady flow of drunk drivers even though we have driven the point home time after time after time. He WILL get an Article 15 imposed by a Squadron Commander or higher. He will lose half a month’s pay for two months, lose rank, be restricted to whatever area the Commander directs and perform extra duty for 45 days. In addition, he will not be allowed to leave the installation, not be allowed to wear civilian clothes, be barred from re-enlisting, have all favorable actions suspended (No promotions, no awards, no schools, no leaves or passes), have his license suspended for a year and have his car impounded for a year and lose his alcohol consumption privileges. Then, he must be compelling as to why he should have those privileges back. Commanders have veto power if he feels the Soldier has not improved his conduct. The Soldier will be required to attend rehab, he will receive a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, leaders will be relieved of their leadership duties, Officers and Noncommissioned Officer (NCO’s) will receive a ‘Relief for Cause’ evaluation, Officers and NCO Article 15’s and memoranda of reprimand go on their military performance record. Military Police and Soldiers in the JAG Corps can no longer work in law-related branches and must re-classify or be separated from the military. The same applies for Military Intelligence jobs. Soldiers with a Secret or Top Secret Clearance will lose it and never get it back. All those things WILL happen. The Chain of Command MAY court-martial the Soldier and/or MAY separate the Soldier from the military. Officers and NCO’s WILL be processed for separation. Junior Enlisted may get a second chance; MAY. They can also be fired for a single DUI, but that is at the discretion of their commanders. People are flawed. The world is flawed. There will always be war. There will always be crime. The climate will always change. There will always be hate and fear and unfairness and unjustness. And people will drink and drive, no matter the law, no matter the penalty.

The posts concerning drunken driving are interesting. I will offer this anecdotal tale. Perhaps some of the older posters can speak to its accuracy. A few years ago I was talking about drunken driving with an older relative (now deceased). I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t remember his exact words, but he told me, “Back in the early 70’s, this ‘DWI’ stuff wasn’t a big deal. Six of us in the car, everyone pxxx drunk. Cop would pull us all out and do the field sobriety test to determine who was the least drunk, put that person behind the wheel, and send us on our way without so much as a ticket!” I remember thinking, Wow, I’m really glad that was before my time.

You’ve sold me.