U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters Dec. 12 said the number of people killed in traffic crashes is expected to reach a new record low in 2008, with early projections showing an almost 10 percent drop in highway traffic deaths in the first 10 months of this year.

Peters also outlined key safety benchmarks that have been achieved across all areas of transportation.

The secretary said the new fatality data marks the first time the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is able to project fatality figures prior to the end of the calendar year. Using new electronic data gathering techniques, the department is working to make projections in near real time to "give safety professionals the data they need to keep motorists safe," she said.

Early estimates show that 31,110 people died on the nation's roads from January through October, compared to 34,502 in 2007 during that same 10-month time period. In addition, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicles miles traveled for the first nine months of 2008 is 1.28, compared to 1.37 for 2007.

"For the second year in a row we are seeing historic lows in deaths on our nation's roads," Peters said. "While we are encouraged by these declines, our work is not nearly complete in making our safe transportation network even safer."