WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported its latest traffic fatality and injury data, which showed that in 2010, the number of highway deaths fell to the lowest level since 1949. The organization said this decline in traffic fatalities occurred even though Americans are driving 1.6% miles more than in 2009 (46 billion more miles).

The number of people killed in auto accidents declined by 2.9%, from 33,883 in 2009 to 32,885 in 2010, according to NHTSA’s 2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The organization also reported that in 2010, an estimated 2.24 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, compared with 2.22 million in 2009, using NHTSA’s National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES).

In 2010, there were 1,260 fewer passenger vehicle occupant fatalities than in 2009, with the distribution between vehicle types being the same.

One area that saw an increase in the number of fatalities was with large trucks. NHTSA reported an 8.7% increase in the number of people killed. In addition, fatalities in large-truck crashes increased in all categories, including large truck occupants, occupants of other vehicles, and non-occupants (people outside vehicles involved in the collision). The largest percentage increase in fatalities was in the number of occupants of large trucks in multivehicle crashes, at a 16% increase between 2009 and 2010. This contrasts with the 9.1% increase in fatalities of other vehicle occupants involved in those same accidents.

The number of people killed in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9% in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.

Another finding was that more than half of those killed (at 51%) in 2010 were not wearing restraints. The time of day made a difference in fatalities for those who were unrestrained. Of those vehicle occupants killed during the night, 61% weren’t wearing restraints, compared with 42% not wearing restraints during the day. The highest increase happened during nighttime crashes, as 983 of the 1,260 passenger vehicle occupant fatalities occurred at night.

Although the nighttime crashes involving unrestrained passengers resulted in more fatalities, the majority of the decline in total fatalities was due to fewer fatalities overall at night. Of the 998 fewer fatalities in 2010, there were 857 fewer fatalities in nighttime crashes (6 pm to 5:59 am).

In terms of location, the number of fatalities that occurred in rural areas declined by 6.7%, but those in urban areas increased by 0.3%. Crashes where a vehicle left the roadway declined by 3.9%. Crashes at intersections declined by 7.1%.

Lastly, when it comes to age groups, fatalities in crashes with younger drivers (ages 16 to 20) declined at a faster rate than the overall decline in fatalities between 2006 and 2010, dropping by 39% compared with 23% for the overall drop.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet