US Traffic Deaths Drop by 3 Percent

Dec 22, 2014 07:00 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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Traffic deaths nationwide dropped by around 3 percent last year, a promising change that federal regulators credit to safer vehicles and stronger law enforcement.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that 32,719 people died in crashes in the United States last year, a drop from 33,782 in 2012, the Associated Press reported. Additionally, the rate of deaths per 100 million miles traveled fell to 1.1, which ties with the record low from 2011.

While the number of deaths related to drunken and distracted driving fell, accidents rose for crashes involving big trucks as well as bicycles.

Traffic deaths have fallen almost 25 percent in the last decade; NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman said the number of fatalities has dropped thanks to improved vehicle safety, stronger laws and consumer awareness campaigns.

Car companies represented by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers attribute the positive shift to safer roads and advanced vehicle technology, the Detroit News reported.

"Automakers compete with one another to produce the safest vehicles. Lane departure warnings, blind spot detection systems and crash-imminent braking are just a few of the most important technologies already available on many new cars, trucks and SUVs," said Alliance spokesman Wade Newton. "And this government data show that today's consumers are benefiting from a full range of safety technologies that help drivers avoid crashes, and reduce injuries when a crash is unavoidable."

Deaths related to drunken driving fell by 2.5 percent in 2013 to 10,076, constituting 31 percent of all traffic fatalities last year.

Federal regulators and automakers alike could use some good news. It's been a record year for recalls in the U.S., with car companies recalling 52.5 million vehicles in 2014.

Following General Motors' ignition switch debacle early this year, the NHTSA has been putting more pressure on carmakers to speed up their recalls. 

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