Traffic Deaths at Historic Lows; Ped and Bike Fatalities Increasing

New data released this week shows that automobile fatalities dropped last year to the lowest level in 62 years. At the same time, deaths of bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders and big-rig truck drivers increased, reports Ashley Halsey III.

In only six years, highway deaths have dropped 26 percent from their recent peak, to "the lowest level since the Truman administration," new data [PDF] released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates. "The downward national trend began before the recession took some drivers off the roads, and it accelerated last year," says Halsey. "It has been attributed to several factors, including increased use of air bags, seat belts and other vehicle safety features, improved roadway designs, and increasing awareness of the perils of driving drunk."

According to Angie Schmitt, at Streetsblog, there's diasgreement over the cause of increases in bicyclist (8.7 percent) and pedestrian (3 percent) deaths. Some see the cycling increases as statistically insignificant, while others attribute the rise to more bicyclists on roads and streets.

“Our culture is beginning to move away from driving and toward healthier and greener modes of transportations,” said Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “We need to be able to accommodate all these forms of transportation safely.”

Full Story: Traffic deaths at lowest point in 62 years

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