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Fatal car accidents reached their lowest numbers in almost 50 years in 2008, and that nationwide trend is continuing into 2009, according to encouraging highway safety figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week.
Overall, last year saw a 9.7 percent drop in the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. -- from 41,259 fatalities in 2007 down to 37,261 in 2008. That's the lowest number of car accident fatalities since 1961, and the decline in fatalities is the largest since 1982 in terms of both number and percentage, according to the NHTSA.
Here's a look at some of the highlights of the NHTSA's 2008 Traffic Safety Annual Assessment:
And now the bad news when it comes to traffic safety trends: motorcycle accidents continued to climb in 2008, as they have for the last 11 years, according to NHTSA data. The 5,290 motorcycle accident deaths in 2008 accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities for the year, and while motorcycle registrations have increased, the rate of fatal motorcycle accidents has gone up even more steeply, the agency says.