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Transportation Secretary Slater Says Traffic Death Rate Dropped to Record Low in 1997

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

Transportation Secretary Slater Says Traffic Death Rate Dropped to Record Low in 1997

NHTSA
October 27, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NHTSA 73-98
Tuesday October 27, 1998
Contact: Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced that the nation's traffic fatality rate last year dropped to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1966. The 1997 rate, 1.6 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, was down from 1.7, the rate since 1992. The 1966 rate was 5.5.

"Safety is President Clinton's highest transportation priority and we are committed to making our nation's highways even safer in the 21st century," Secretary Slater said. "These statistics tell us that America is making progress in the battle for safer roads, but safety is everyone's responsibility and we must all continue our vigilance."

On Aug. 24, 1998, Secretary Slater announced that alcohol-related traffic fatalities also dropped to a record low. This, combined with an all-time high rate of seat belt use in 1997, helped make last year one of the safest years on U.S. roads in history.

The rate of crash-related deaths announced today was lower than earlier estimates. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had based its preliminary projections on an estimate that Americans drove 2.49 trillion miles in 1997. The actual number just released by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was 2.56 trillion.

"NHTSA has worked hard to form strong partnerships, to give people the tools they need to improve highway safety in their own communities," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "These statistics show that our efforts are saving lives and preventing injuries."

The preliminary 1997 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) report by NHTSA showed that the total number of traffic-related deaths dropped slightly from 42,065 in 1996 to 41,967 in 1997.

Last year, alcohol-related fatalities dropped to 38.6 percent of all deaths, down from 40.9 percent in 1996 and dramatically lower than the 57.3 percent rate in 1982.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration annually collects crash statistics from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce an annual FARS report. The final report, pending completion of data collection and quality control verification, will be available later this year. Copies of the preliminary report are available from the NHTSA Office of Public and Consumer Affairs at (202) 366-9550 or on the World Wide Web at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

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