The number of motor vehicles traveling along the highways and byways across the United States continues to increase dramatically every year.
Nevertheless, federal data collection agencies recently determined that fewer children were killed during motor vehicle accidents last year.
The United States Department of Transportation recently announced that motor vehicle crashes in 2001 claimed the lives of fewer children ages 15 years and younger than any other time in record-keeping history.
The transportation safety board also announced the federal agency's findings in a recent study of traffic accidents throughout the year of 2001.
According to the report, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled decreased slightly across the United States.
The nationwide traffic accident fatality rate registered at 1.52 people per 100 million vehicle miles in 2001. The figure represents a small reduction from the final 1.53 fatality rate posted nationwide in 2000.
The total number of people killed in traffic crashes on America's highways and roadways registered at 42,116 during 2001. The number of reported deaths decreased slightly when compared to the 41,945 fatalities occurring at locations across the U.S. in 2000.
However, the drop in the 2001 fatality rate occurred because fatalities remained relatively constant despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled.
In 2001, vehicle miles traveled increased slightly to 2.778 trillion, up from 2.75 trillion in 2000, according to preliminary estimates from the transportation department's federal highway administration.
"Though the loss of more than 42,000 people is unacceptable, the news about the nation's young people is positive," commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
"Clearly, parents and care-givers are getting the message about the importance of proper restraints for children of all ages," noted the federal transportation agency official.
The 2001 statistics also continue to show the increased risk of death and injury when drivers and passengers do not wear seat belts or fail to have their children properly restrained in child safety seats.
According to the federal safety administration, 60 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes last year were not restrained.
In 2001, data collected by the federal transportation and traffic safety fatality analysis reporting system indicated that:
Motorcycle fatalities increased for the fourth year in a row following years of steady improvement.
With 3,181 killed in 2001, it was the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1990.
For the first time since 1997, younger motorcyclists, that is, riders under the age of 40, posted the highest percentage increases in fatalities.
The rate of alcohol-related deaths in 2001 remained unchanged at 0.63 per 100 million vehicle miles travelled which equalled 17,448 deaths.
Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks dropped from 5,282 in 2000 to 5,082 in 2001.
The number of pedestrians killed in 2001 equalled 4,882, which was a slight increase from 4,763 in 2000.
Young drivers age 16-20 were involved in slightly fewer fatal crashes, 7,598, in 2001 compared to 7,671 in 2000.
Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in single vehicle rollover crashes increased 2.3 percent to 8,400. Pickup trucks accounted for the largest percentage increase with 4.2 percent.
The number of fatalities for children under five dropped significantly, by an 8.6 percent decrease. There were 710 in 2000 compared to 649 in 2001.
The number of fatalities for children ages five to 15 also dropped 8.6 percent from 2,121 in 2000 to 1,939 in 2001.
The number of fatalities in both age groups is the lowest since the highway safety board began keeping records in 1975.