According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System census numbers, the United States has seen a 25 percent drop in traffic deaths since 2004. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation has stated that the U.S. fatality rate is "at its lowest point ever." In 2013, the country saw 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says credit for this belongs largely to the work of law enforcement and his agency's work. The DOT credits federal regulations and regulators. It is clear that improvements have been made. To further those improvements, it is important to analyze what is actually working to reduce highway deaths.
Safety programs designed to decrease the incidence of drunk driving and increase the use of seat belts have helped drive the number of traffic deaths down. Seat belt use is a major factor in increasing the survivability of a car accident. Air bag technology, when it works properly, also helps drivers survive when crashes occur. Finally, the combination of anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control devices, which became mandatory on all light vehicles built after September 2011, has helped reduce fatal accidents in cars, light trucks and vans by more than 15 percent.
The vast majority of traffic deaths are the result of driver error. Distracted, drowsy and drunk drivers are responsible for more than half of all fatal accidents, according to the National Safety Council. Whether through technology, public awareness campaigns or regulation, addressing these causes of deadly accidents would go a long way toward making U.S. roads a safer place to be.
Source: Automotive News, "NHTSA had lots of help making roads safer," by James B. Treece, 29 December 2014