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Secretary Mineta Announces Progress, Setbacks for Highway Safety in 2000

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Norman Y. Mineta

Secretary Mineta Announces Progress, Setbacks for Highway Safety in 2000

NHTSA
September 24, 2001

NHTSA 49-01
Monday, September 24, 2001
(Revised)
Contact: Rae Tyson
Telephone: (202) 366-9550

Child Deaths, Injuries Are Down; Alcohol, Motorcycle Deaths Rise

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced that highway fatalities involving children ages 0-15 dropped in 2000 to the lowest level since record-keeping began in 1975. Deaths in the 0-4 age group dropped 3.9 percent from 735 in 1999 to 706 in 2000 while fatalities for ages 5-15 dropped 4.6 percent from 2,207 in 1999 to 2,105 in 2000.

All told, 41,821 people died on the nation's highways in 2000, compared to 41,717 in 1999, according to the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained unchanged at the historic low level of 1.6. The number of crash-related injuries dropped 1.5 percent from 3.24 million in 1999 to 3.19 million in 2000.

While the number of highway fatalities is virtually unchanged, there were measurable declines in fatalities in some key safety areas. Pedalcyclist fatalities declined significantly, by 8.5 percent. Large truck crash fatalities declined 3 percent and pedestrian deaths decreased by 4 percent.

"America's highways are safer than ever for children, and the historic low for last year underscores the effectiveness of our highway safety efforts," Secretary Mineta said. "Unfortunately, we are still losing far too many lives to highway crashes every year, and we need to re-double our efforts."

In 2000, 40 percent of all fatalities involved alcohol, up from the historic low of 38 percent in 1999. It was the first increase in alcohol-related deaths since 1995. In 2000, 16,653 fatalities were alcohol-related, compared to 15,976 in 1999.

Alcohol impaired or intoxicated drivers or pedestrians put themselves and others at greater risk in motor vehicle crashes. Years of data show they are about 50 percent more likely to be involved in crashes resulting in a fatality or an injury.

Motorcycle deaths rose 15.3 percent from 2,483 in 1999 to 2,862 in 2000. While increases in registrations and VMT may account for some of the increase, it was, nevertheless, the third straight year with higher motorcycle fatalities following 17 years of steady declines.

Seat belts and child safety seats clearly save lives. Fifty-five percent of passenger car and light truck occupants killed in 2000 were unrestrained. Data show that a driver or passenger can cut the risk of dying in a crash almost in half by buckling up. Placing a child in an age-appropriate safety seat will reduce the infant's or youngster's risk of dying by as much as two-thirds.

"My years in the emergency department have convinced me that seat belts and car seats are what separates the patients who go home after a crash from those who do not," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. "Using proper restraints is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself because crashes do happen, even to the most careful driver."

The 2000 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) assessment by NHTSA also found that population, total registered vehicles, and miles traveled all increased slightly in 2000 compared to 1999. The FARS assessment for 2000 also indicates that:

  • Pedestrian deaths dropped from 4,939 in 1999 to 4,739 in 2000.
  • Pedalcyclist fatalities fell from 754 in 1999 to 690 in 2000.
  • Fatalities involving large trucks dropped from 5,380 in 1999 to 5,211 in 2000.
  • Single vehicle rollover fatalities decreased for every vehicle type except one - the sport utility vehicle (SUV). SUV single vehicle rollover deaths increased 8.9 percent from 1,546 in 1999 to 1,684 in 2000.

    NHTSA collects crash statistics from the 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce the annual FARS assessment. The final printed report will be available later this year. Additional information is available at the NHTSA 2000 Annual Assessment

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