The number of deaths from vehicle accidents nationwide reached a record low in 2008, according to figures released today. Experts are pointing to last year's peak of $4 per gallon gas prices and increasing seat belt use to explain the numbers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) estimated figures for 2008 show that 37,313 vehicle drivers and passengers were killed in vehicle accidents in 2008, the lowest number of fatalities since 1961, and also the lowest fatality rate ever recorded (1.28 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled). Check out the NHTSA Report: Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2008.
Drivers and passengers continued to use seat belts more in 2008, with the state-by-state numbers showing the highest rate of seat belt use in Michigan (97.2 percent) and the lowest rate in Massachusetts (66.8 percent).
According to the NHTSA, seat belt use rates in a given state may be tied to the strength of traffic laws on use of restraint devices: "The survey shows that jurisdictions with primary belt laws continue to exhibit higher use rates than those with weaker laws. In Maine, for example, belt use increased from 79.8 percent to 83 percent a year after the state enacted a primary seat belt law." Check out the NHTSA Report: Seat Belt Use in 2008.