The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes dropped to 33,808 in 2009, the lowest number since 1950, says the Department of Transportation.
That's nearly a 10 percent reduction in fatal crashes from the previous year, despite a 0.2 percent increase in the estimated number of miles traveled, DOT said.
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Trucking's highway safety record improved as well.
The number of people killed in accidents involving large trucks dropped 20 percent last year to 3,380 compared with 4,245 in 2008, the department reported.
A large part of that drop was a 19 percent reduction in the number of passenger-vehicle fatalities in truck accidents, from 3,151 in 2008 to 2,551 last year.
Last year's fatality and injury rates were the lowest recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles.
The number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes declined for the 10th consecutive year, falling 5.5 percent from 2008, according to NHTSA.
The numbers reflect the benefits of seat-belt use and strong anti-drunk driving enforcement campaigns, said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
Alcohol-related driving fatalities decreased 7.4 percent in 2009 to 10,839. Overall, 33 states and Puerto Rico reported a decline in alcohol-related fatalities.
"But we are still losing more than 30,000 lives a year on our highways, and about a third of these involve drunk driving," Strickland said Sept. 9.
Texas had the highest number of highway fatalities - 3,476 - and 38 percent of those were alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, according to NHTSA.
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