Deaths on American roads last year hit their lowest level since 1949, with 32,310 drivers, passengers, riders and pedestrians killed, a drop of 1.6 percent from 2010 according to new federal data. Even accounting for a drop in miles driven, government researchers say the roads grew safer last year. What researchers can't quite answer yet is why, but there are a few strong leads.
This picture from Flickr user gtall1 of a 2010 crash in Beverly Hills, Calif., offers one explanation. No one was injured in this crash, in part because new vehicles such as this Subaru Outback have more robust safety features than ever before, from multiple airbags to roofs that don't crush when rolled over. An even bigger lifesaver may be the onset of electronic stability controls, now standard in all new vehicles, that have been shown to drastically help drivers avoid crashes in the first place. (A majority of car crashes involve just one vehicle).
The total given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn't include a breakdown among types of crashes; in years past, fatalities from passenger cars and trucks have dropped while deaths from motorcycles and pedestrians have risen. Given the onset of states repealing helmet laws, it's a safe bet those trends continued. The lower number also raises a few questions about the furor over distracted driving: If distraction remains at "epidemic levels" as officials such as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said, it's not showing up in the data.
Other stories in the news this morning:
Nevada grants Google first self-driving car license: There's a lot of empty space to drive in Nevada, so this makes sense. (Reuters)
Ally gets Treasury OK to put mortgage unit in bankruptcy: Our long national nightmare of the ditech.com guy may finally come to a close. (Bloomberg)
Holden pushing for car based off Chevy Code 130R concept: In Australia, the Holden Torana was a beloved sports car of the '70s, and now Holden execs hope they could bring it back if GM builds something like the Chevy Code 130R rear-wheel-drive concept.