The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said yesterday that 41,821 people died on U.S. highways in 2000, up slightly from 41,717 in 1999. NHTSA added, however, that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained unchanged at 1.6.
Truck-related fatalities, however, dropped. In its 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting Systems assessment, NHTSA said fatalities involving large trucks dropped by 3.1% from 1999. Overall, there were 5,211 truck-related fatalities in 2000, 169 less than in 1999.
However, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said in a statement that the number of overall highway fatalities remains too high. “Unfortunately, we are still losing far too many lives to highway crashes every year, and we need to re-double our efforts,” he said.
For example, Mineta noted, 40% of all fatalities involved alcohol in 2000, up from 38% in 1999. That represents the first increase in alcohol-related deaths since 1990. In 2000, 16,653 fatalities were alcohol-related, compared to 15,976 in 1999, said NHTSA.
Also, a large number of highway fatalities still occur because vehicle occupants are not wearing seat belts, NHTSA reported, as 55% of passenger car and light truck occupants killed in 2000 were unrestrained. “Using proper restraints is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself because crashes do happen, even to the most careful driver,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge.