2010 U.S. highway deaths lowest since 1949 image

For the fifth consecutive year, the number of people who lost their lives on U.S. highways fell in 2010, the NHTSA announced.

The 2010 report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration marks the longest streak of declines since records began in 1899. The number of fatalities dropped 2.9 percent to 32,885, the lowest figure since 1949. However, the number of deaths of motorcyclists, pedestrians and large-truck occupants increased. Commercial-truck related deaths rose 8.7 percent to 3,675, the first increase since 2004. The number of trucker fatalities rose 6 percent to 529.

According to U.S. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood, the decrease in fatalities is due to safer cars and roadways, as well as drivers who are more likely to wear their seatbelts and less likely to drink and drive. Better awareness of driving while intoxicated, increased use of designated drivers and better law enforcement contributed to the 4.9 percent decrease in alcohol-related driving deaths, LaHood said.

3,092 deaths, roughly 9.4 percent of the total 2010 fatalities, were related to driver distraction. The number of people injured in traffic crashes rose 0.9 percent to 2.24 million. The fatality rate (the number of people killed per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) fell to 1.1 last year from 1.15 in 2009.