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US Traffic Fatalities Continue to Decline
US fatality rate reaches an all-time low, even without widespread use of photo ticketing.

Ray LaHood
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced last week that road fatalities in the United States are continuing their decline at a record-shattering pace. According to preliminary figures, the number killed on the nation's highways in 2011 per 100 million miles driven has dropped to an all-time low of 1.09, which is a full 25 percent drop from just six years ago. The total number of people who died on US roads last year dropped by the same percentage to 32,310.

"If these projections are realized, fatalities will be lowest on record (since 1949)," NHTSA's May 2012 "Traffic Safety Facts" explained.

The news was of so little consequence to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that it did not merit a mention either on his "Fast Lane" blog or his Twitter account, which covers a number of miscellaneous topics.

"Olver Transit Center a new energy-saving transportation star in Western Massachusetts," LaHood tweeted last week. "New transit center a true gem."

The Fast Lane blog instead covered issues like an online dialogue to improve transportation for veterans, the landing of a 787 airplane landing in DC, a cargo ship arriving in Texas, the Olver Transit Center, reviving inter-city passenger rail, toll road funding, and high school students making paper airplanes.

In Europe, countries that experience increased safety levels on their highways are quick to credit governmental policy -- especially the use of photo enforcement -- for the positive momentum.

"The UK has one of the best road safety records in the world," the UK Department for Transport boasted in 2010. "Safety cameras play an important role in helping to keep the country's road network safe."

In the United States, there is no statistical connection between the presence of cameras and the increase in safety. In fact, the upper northeast experienced the greatest increase in safety even though the region has the fewest red light cameras and speed cameras. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut either ban or decline to use automated ticketing machines. Only Rhode Island has a handful of cameras, yet the region posted a 7.2 percent accident reduction. By contrast, California and Arizona use photo enforcement extensively, yet fatal road accidents increased 3.3 percent in 2011.

A copy of the report is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2011 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5/1/2012)

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