According to numbers released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, highway fatalities in 2008 fell to their lowest levels since 1961. The administration estimated that 37,313 people were killed in wrecks last year. In 1961, just over 36,000 lives were lost.
Those numbers also represent the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, at 1.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicles miles traveled. That’s down from 1.36 in 2007.
While some credit the economy for fewer miles, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood credits the drop to an increase in seat belt usage. A separate report released by the NHTSA shows that overall seat belt usage is up, especially in states with primary seat belt laws.