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Traffic fatalities hit all-time low

Highway deaths declined again last year, reaching their lowest rate when compared to miles driven since such record-keeping began in 1921, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s early estimate of 2011 traffic fatalities released Monday. The report said there were 32,310 deaths in motor vehicle crashes last year, a drop of 1.7% from the previous year. That’s the lowest number of deaths in more than 60 years. Overall, traffic fatalities have plummeted 26% since 2005.

The number of miles driven on America’s roadways declined last year by 35.7 billion miles, or 1.2%, NHTSA said. There were 1.09 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, down slightly from 1.11 deaths in 2010, the lowest rate on record.

There were significant regional differences in the fatality reductions last year, with the sharpest drop — 7.2% — in the six New England states. NHTSA divides states into 10 regions. Highway deaths in the five-state Region 7 — Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas — also registered a significant decline of 5.3 percent. But the three-state Region 9 — California, Arizona and Hawaii — experienced a 3.3 percent increase in fatalities, and deaths in the five-state Region 6 — Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi remained essentially flat.

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