- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alcohol-related fatalities on U.S. highways dropped for a second straight year in 2004, as did traffic deaths overall, the government reported yesterday, citing the District as having the highest decrease in deaths.

The Department of Transportation said alcohol-related fatalities fell 2.4 percent, from 17,105 in 2003 to 16,694 in 2004. Overall, 42,636 persons died on the nation’s highways in 2004, down 248 — or 0.6 percent — from the previous year.

The decline in traffic deaths for the second straight year was underscored by the growing number of motorists. When measured by the estimated miles driven, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled dropped to 1.46.

When the government began keeping records in 1966, 50,894 persons died, and the fatality rate was 5.5.

“Drivers are safer today on our nation’s highways than they have ever been, in part because of the safer cars, higher safety-belt use and stronger safety laws that this department has helped champion,” said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

Alcohol-related deaths dropped to less than 17,000 for the first time in five years. Fatalities involving those with blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher declined 1.8 percent.

Traffic deaths declined in 27 states, the District and Puerto Rico. The District had the highest percentage decrease, followed by Rhode Island, Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana. Traffic fatalities increased the most in Vermont, followed by New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Alabama.

An annual release of statistics on traffic fatalities showed mixed results. Among the findings:

• Motorcycle fatalities grew nearly 8 percent last year to 4,008, the first time they have topped 4,000 since 1987. Motorcycle deaths have increased seven years in a row.

• Rollover deaths among passenger-vehicle occupants increased 1.1 percent to 10,553.

• Fatalities in sport utility vehicles increased 5.6 percent, up to 4,735. Fatalities in passenger cars, pickup trucks and vans declined.

• Pedestrian deaths dropped 2.8 percent to 4,641.

• Deaths involving cyclists increased 15 percent to 725.

• Fifty-five percent of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing seat belts, compared with 56 percent in 2003.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that highway crashes cost U.S. citizens more than $230 billion a year.

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