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New UMTRI Report

July 23, 2008

Is the U.S. on the path to the lowest motor-vehicle fatalities in decades?

As part of UMTRI's Strategic Worldwide Transportation 2020 program, Michael Sivak has just released a paper that examines trends in U.S. motor-vehicle fatalities, gasoline sales, and distance driven.

He examined these factors for a 12-month period from May 2007 through April 2008. Results show substantial year-to-year reductions in motor vehicle fatalities during this time that cannot be fully explained by the reductions in gasoline sales and distance driven. This is especially the case for the latest two months examined (March and April 2008). Here, the reductions in motor-vehicle fatalities averaged 20 percent, while the reductions in gasoline sales and distance driven were in low single digits.

Consequently, it appears that a major shift in driver behavior might be occurring. This shift may involve disproportionate reductions in distance driven for more risky driving conditions and for drivers with less income (who tend to have higher crash rates), as well as possible reductions in speeds as a means of increasing fuel economy.

If the March and April 2008 trends continue, the 2008 annual fatalities would drop to under 40,000 for the first time since 1961!

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