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NHTSA TERMS 1996 FATALITY TOLL ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED DESPITE UPWARD PRESSURES

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American Government Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

NHTSA TERMS 1996 FATALITY TOLL ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED DESPITE UPWARD PRESSURES

NHTSA
July 17, 1997

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 43-97 Thursday, July 17, 1997
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released final crash data showing 41,907 fatalities last year, with a fatality rate that is the lowest in history and that remains unchanged since 1992.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority, and these figures mean that we all must continue efforts to make the roads as safe as possible. Ultimately, safety is everyone's responsibility," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "As a nation, we are holding the line on the number one killer of young Americans, despite increased travel mileage, higher speed limits, aggressive drivers and an aging population. Yet, clearly we must do more."

Dr. Martinez said that the number of alcohol-related fatalities in crashes in 1996 was 17,126 or 40.9 percent of the total. This is a reduction in both percentage and actual numbers from 1995, when 17,274 alcohol-related fatalities accounted for 41.3 percent of the total. He noted that this was welcome news, since alcohol-related fatalities had shown an increase in 1995 from the previous year.

Faced with a plateau in the progress against the number of fatalities, NHTSA has reinvented its approach to highway safety, Dr. Martinez said. It has formed expanded partnerships with business and the medical community. It has placed a new emphasis on local solutions to highway safety problems, and has channeled more money to states for initiatives to boost safety belt use and to fight drunk driving.

Saying that the easy gains in safety are past, and the hard core, high risk groups are a special challenge, Dr. Martinez said Clinton Administration's NEXTEA (National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act) proposal holds the key for progress. He said that tougher state laws to increase safety belt use are also vital, and that the Administration's safety belt initiative is a high priority strategy to reduce traffic deaths, injuries and health care costs.

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