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Early Report: U.S. Highway Deaths Fall To Lowest Number Since 1949

If a preliminary report holds true, the number of road deaths fell again in 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 32,310 people died on highways last year, down almost 2 percent from the 32,885 people who died in 2010.

The Detroit News reports:

"The fatality rate for 2011 is projected to decline to the lowest on record, to 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.11 fatalities per 100 million in 2010.

"Road deaths fell the most in New England in 2011, down 7.2 percent. In the Great Lakes region, including Michigan, deaths were down 3.3 percent. In California, Arizona and Hawaii road deaths were up 3.3 percent and traffic deaths were flat in Texas and surrounding states.

"NHTSA will release final numbers later this year, including a more detailed breakdown on causes of road deaths and crashes."

The report from NHTSA did not give reasons for the decline. But the AP spoke to safety experts who "attributed the decline to a variety of factors, including less driving due to a weak economy, more people wearing seat belts, better safety equipment in cars and efforts to curb drunken driving."

Bloomberg reports that U.S. drivers travelled 1.2 percent fewer vehicle miles.

Prices during that period rose 6.7 percent, Bloomberg notes quoting the AAA.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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