Statement on Preliminary Highway Death Data

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2005 (202) 408-1711 x23

Statement of Judith Lee Stone, President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
on the release of the
2004 Projections for Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities and Injuries
April 21, 2005


Today's release of projected 2004 highway fatalities is bad news for the American public. SUV rollover fatalities are up, motorcyclists are dying in record numbers and truck deaths continue to grow. It's time for action and American families are dying for solutions.

Overall, 157 more people are estimated to have died on the nation's highways in 2004, compared to 2003 (42,800 vs. 42,643.)

Despite major efforts to increase seat belt use across the nation, the number of people dying unrestrained in crashes in 2004 remains the same as 2003 (more than half of those killed.)

Deaths in large truck crashes also rose for the second year in a row, to 5,169 (2003 fatalities were 4,986.) There was a large jump (13%) in truck occupant deaths in multiple vehicle crashes. Still, the great majority of truck-related deaths occur among occupants of other-than-truck vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Motorcycle fatalities continue to increase, with an additional 391 motorcyclists projected to have died in 2004 over 2003. Nearly 4000 motorcycling deaths occurred in 2004, a more than 85% increase since 1997. Yet anti-helmet forces continue to push their motorcycle helmet use law repeal agenda in state legislatures, with some success.

111 more people were killed in crashes involving young drivers ages 16-20: 8,566 in 2004 vs. 8,455 in 2003.

The U.S. Department of Transportation disguises real-world facts by hiding behind the fatality rate, which masks the number of fatalities. The government wants us to believe that even though more family members and friends are projected to have been killed in crashes last year, things are really getting better because we spent more time driving. The cold hard reality is that we are stuck in neutral. Annual deaths due to motor vehicle crashes have fluctuated between 42,000 and 43,000 for a decade, and any reductions achieved are slight. People are needlessly dying because commonsense laws languish in state legislatures and the federal government is painfully slow in issuing overdue regulations to make our cars safer. It is time to reverse these trends.

Hope is on the way. Congress is now considering legislation that will address many of these safety problems, particularly rollover deaths in SUVs, by directing federal government action. It is time for the Administration to drop their objections and for Congress to enact this legislation that will ensure safer cars and safer highways for American families.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.

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