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Declining Traffic Deaths Due to Safer Cars, Not Better Drivers

There's good news and bad news. First, the good news: death rates from traffic accidents continue to go down. Now the bad news: the decline...
August 15, 2006

There's good news and bad news. First, the good news: death rates from traffic accidents continue to go down. Now the bad news: the decline is due to safer cars, not better drivers.

In fact, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that without the improvements in the design of cars that provide more protection, the motor vehicle death rate per registered vehicle would have stopped declining in 1994 and started going up. The study found an estimated 5,200 additional lives would have been lost in 2004 without the vehicle design changes.

Institute president Adrian Lund said in recent years it's the vehicles, not better drivers or improved roadways, that has kept the fatality rates going down. "Of course the vehicle design changes are good, but people shouldn't have to buy new, more crashworthy vehicles to maintain their safety." Said Lund. "Our concern is that the efforts we had been seeing in the 1980s to mandate belt use and toughen DWI laws diminished in the 1990s at the same time that states were raising speed limits."

Declining Death Rates Due to Safer Vehicles, Not Better Drivers (IIHS 8/10/06)

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