The NHTSA data analysis shows highway deaths fell to 32,367 in 2011, a 1.9-percent decrease from 2010. The number marks the lowest level of highway fatalities since 1949.
The 2011 numbers continue a downward trend, representing a 26-percent decline in traffic fatalities since 2005.
Updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) information released Tuesday shows 2011 had the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.
The NHTSA highlighted several statistics:
- Fatalities declined by 4.6 percent for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups).
- Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, taking 9,878 lives compared to 10,136 in 2010.
- Fatalities increased among large truck occupants (20 percent), pedalcyclists (8.7 percent), pedestrians (3.0 percent), and motorcycle riders (2.1 percent). NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather more detailed information on the large truck occupant crashes to better understand the increase in fatalities in 2011.
-The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes rose to 3,331 in 2011 from 3,267 in 2010, an increase of 1.9 percent. NHTSA believes this increase can be attributed in part to increased awareness and reporting.
An estimated 387,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes, a 7-percent decline from the estimated 416,000 people injured in such crashes in 2010, according to the NHTSA. Thirty-six states experienced reductions in overall traffic fatalities.