Despite perception to the contrary, we really are safer drivers. Either that or we drive safer cars. Whatever the answer, data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (sourced from US DOT and NHTSA) shows that in 2010, Americans crashed their cars less often, and died in car crashes less often, than in any year since 1975–the year the DOT began tracking this information.
According to the IIHS, total vehicular deaths from 2010 were down to 32,885, “the lowest number of fatalities recorded since 1949, when 30,246 crash deaths occurred,” and is 18,208 better than the peak in 1979. And, in case you were wondering, total number of crashes are down, as are the number of vehicles involved.
More importantly, while the US population has steadily increased, the deaths from crashes per 100,000 people are down, as are deaths per 100 million miles driven (by a margin of 3:1). So, we have more cars, more people driving more miles on significantly more roads, and there are fewer accidents with fewer cars and fewer deaths. Sounds like we’re living in a golden age of automotive safety, right?
While nearly every single statistic shows improvement, there are two places where data shows no improvement: the death rate for drivers aged 70 years and older actually increased (all other ages decreased), and death from speeding remained unchanged, percentage-wise, from 2001.
The study does highlight some important findings though: Seat belts work–use them! And, in 2010, 51-percent of auto fatalities occurred on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday.
For a more complete breakdown of the demographics and causes, be sure to check out the IIHS study here. They also have neat statistical graphs.