WASHINGTON, D.C. — The fatality rate on the nation’s
highways in 2004 was the lowest since record-keeping began
30 years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) announced. The number of alcohol-
related fatalities also dropped for the second straight
All told, 42,636 people died on the nation’s highways in
2004, down from 42,884 in 2003. The fatality rate per 100
million vehicle miles traveled was 1.46 in 2004, down from
1.48 in 2003. The fatality rate has been steadily improving
since 1966 when 50,894 people died and the 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 Secretary of
Transportation Norman Mineta. "But as long as the number of
highway deaths remains as high as it is, we will keep
advocating for the kind of vehicles, roads and driving
habits that make people safer in their cars and trucks."
Since 2001, the number of states with primary safety-belt
laws has increased to 22, along with the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico, leading to an 80% safety belt use
level, the highest ever. In addition, all states, plus the
District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, now have 0.08 blood
alcohol laws for drivers. (Minnesota’s 0.08 law took effect
The NHTSA earlier estimated that highway crashes cost
taxpayers $230.6 billion a year, about $820 per person.
NHTSA annually collects crash statistics from the 50
states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce
annual reports on traffic fatality trends.