Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Quality of Life

State Traffic Deaths Fall To Lowest Levels In Almost 70 Years

Traveling by car is getting less and less deadly. The state Office of Traffic Safety reports traffic fatalities in California last year totaled 2,715. We haven’t seen a number that low in the Golden State since 1944, when California had one tenth the number of vehicles.

The year 2010 was the fifth year in a row California saw a reduction in traffic deaths. Deaths were down 11.9 percent last year, compared to 2009.

The trend also applied to the national level. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported in April that U.S. traffic deaths in 2010 were at their lowest level since 1949. An estimated 32,788 people were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. last year. That’s down dramatically since 2005 when 43,510 people were killed.


A traffic death is any fatality related to automobile traffic. They include the deaths of car passengers, as well as bikers and pedestrians who are killed after being hit by a car.

There are a lot of reasons why travelling by car is getting a lot more safe. CHP commissioner Joe Farrow cited “behavioral changes” like people buckling up and designating a non-drinking driver.

Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Washington Post that advances in road design like “rumble strips and improved pavement markings” are making a big difference at low cost. She also credited speed cameras, red-light cameras and greater safety measures in car design.

"I just bought my son a little Toyota, and it has five air bags," said Harsha. "My 10-year-old car only has one."

OK, so we live in a nanny state. But you’ve got to consider the positive outcomes. It reminds me of a story I did a couple of years ago about doctors treating trauma as a deadly disease. Some day we may find a cure.