According to preliminary government data released on Monday, national automobile related deaths declined again last year, reaching an all-time low when compared to miles driven since such record- keeping began in 1921. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s early estimate of 2011 traffic fatalities indicated that there were 32,310 deaths in motor vehicle crashes last year. This represents a drop of 1.7 percent from 2010 and the lowest number of deaths in more than 60 years. Safety experts attribute the decline to a variety of factors, including the economy, seat belt use, better safety equipment and efforts to curb drunk driving. Overall traffic fatalities are down 26 percent since 2005.

Despite the national drop in traffic fatality rates, Oregon experienced an increase in traffic fatalities in 2011 with ten more fatalities in 2011 than the previous year (327 in 2011; 317 in 2010). However,according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, when you compare the last two years to any previous two-year period, the improvement in safety is clear. For example, the 644 fatalities in 2010 and 2011 is an 18 percent reduction from 788 in 2008 and 2009. The fatalities crash rate, which is a reflection of fatalities and miles traveled in the state, also remains low. To determine the fatalities crash rate, analysts compare fatalities to “vehicle miles travelled” to assess safety. Oregon’s rate for 2011 is projected to be .96. That means there is less than one life lost on average per 100 million miles traveled in Oregon. This preliminary rate is the second lowest rate in Oregon motor vehicle history: in 2010 the rate was .94. The national crash rate average for 2010 was 1.09.

Oregon bicycle fatalities also rose in 2011. In fact, bicycle fatalities resulting from car crashes more than doubled from 2010 to 2011 (from 7 to 15). However, local governments, ODOT and Governor John Kitzhaber are all making efforts to improve safety on the roads for bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

For example, Portland and other local governments are adding dedicated, green-painted bicycle lanes. ODOT’s Safety Division is supporting a “Lighten Up…And Be Seen At Night” campaign to remind bicyclists how important it is to use lights and war bright, reflective clothing. Finally, Governor Kitzhaber and ODOT proclaimed May “Transportation Safety Awareness Month” in tandem with “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.” “Motor vehicle traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of death and hospitalization in Oregon, and are the second leading cause of injury-related death for all Oregonians,” Kitzhaber wrote in the proclamation. “I encourage all Oregonians to put safety first.” Advocates will be hosting safety fairs, bicycle helmet fittings, child safety seat clinics, motorcycle safety events and more during May and into June.

Source: Oregon Department of Transportation – Posted by Josh Lamborn