Traffic deaths fell to 33,808 in 2009, the lowest number since 1950, according to the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even while estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2009 increased by 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.
In addition, 2009 saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded: 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009, compared to 1.26 deaths for 2008, according to the latest government statistics.
Fatalities declined in all categories of vehicles including motorcycles, which saw fatalities fall by 850 from 2008, breaking an 11-year cycle of annual increases.
According to a NHTSA study based on 2006 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 3 and 34.
In addition to the record-breaking drop in fatalities, the number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009 declined for a tenth consecutive year, falling an estimated 5.5 percent from 2008, according to NHTSA data.
Alcohol impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent in 2009 - 10,839 compared to 11,711 reported in 2008. Overall, 33 states and Puerto Rico experienced a decline in the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2009 compared to 2008.
Highlights of the latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and related NHTSA data include the following:
■ 33,808 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2009, a 9.7 percent decline from 37,423 deaths reported in 2008, and the lowest number of deaths since 1950 (which had 33,186).
■ An estimated 2.217 million people were injured in 2009, a 5.5 percent decline from 2.346 million in 2008.
■ 30,797 fatal crashes occurred in 2009, down 9.9 percent from 34,172 in 2008. All crashes (fatal, injury and property damage only) were down by 5.3 percent in 2009 from a year ago.
■ Forty-one states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all had reductions in fatalities, led by Florida (with 422 fewer fatalities) and Texas (with 405 fewer fatalities).
Click here to view the latest 2009 FARS data.