Statement on Release of Fatality Figures for 2005 Motor Vehicle Crashes

CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson
August 22, 2006 (202) 408-1711 x27

Statement of Jacqueline Gillan, Vice President
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates)
On the Release of Fatality Figures for 2005 Motor Vehicle Crashes

Today's release of 2005 data on motor vehicle deaths and injuries indicates that our leaders in government agencies, Congress and state legislatures must get serious about taking tougher actions to address the number one killer of all Americans ages 4 to 34. Last year, there were 43,443 deaths on our highways, the largest number of fatalities since 1990.

Motorcycle rider deaths increased for the eighth year in a row. Compared to 1997, there has been a 115 percent increase in motorcycle rider deaths. Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities increased last year. Yet again, the total number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in rollover crashes increased and more than half of those killed in crashes were not wearing a seat belt. The 2005 data shows that the U.S. Department of Transportation failed to make any meaningful progress in meeting their goal to reduce by half the number of truck crash deaths and injuries by the end of 2008.

If the U.S. Department of Transportation were releasing data on aviation fatalities that mirrored the 2005 death and injury toll on our nation's highways there would be calls for stronger government actions, legislative oversight hearings, and speedy enactment of laws and other measures to advance safety. Instead, legislation and government actions that have the potential to prevent crashes and save thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars continue to languish in Congress and state legislatures.

The legislative landscape for better safety laws is filled with detours, potholes, and dead end routes. Despite alarming increases in motorcycle deaths and skyrocketing medical costs for brain-injured motorcyclists only 20 states and the District of Columbia currently have an all-rider helmet law. This year, there were 7 attempts in state legislatures to repeal or weaken existing all-rider helmet laws. Furthermore, only half of the states and the District of Columbia have a primary enforcement seat belt law. Only three states, Mississippi, Alaska and Kentucky enacted primary enforcement seat belt laws this year. At this glacial pace, it will be 9 years or more before every state has this lifesaving law.

Summary of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities for 2005

  • Deaths in motor vehicle crashes jumped 1.4 percent over 2004, to 43,443 deaths in 2005 - the highest level since 1990.
  • And, the fatal crash rate also surged to 1.47 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (100 MVMT) to match the jump in the number of deaths in 2005.
  • Motorcycle deaths dramatically increased in a single year, the 8th year in a row. Deaths soared an incredible 115 percent since 1997-- 2,437 more deaths than in 1997 - to a total of 4,553 deaths. Motorcycle deaths now represent fully 10.5 percent of all annual motor vehicle fatalities.
  • Rollover crashes again took more lives than in the year before, a 2.1 percent increase for 2005 over 2004, with 10,816 people losing their lives. The 2005 number of rollover deaths in vans was especially disturbing. This is a 14 percent increase in van rollover deaths in a single year.
  • There was essentially no improvement in large truck crash deaths, with the 2005 figure of 5,212 fatalities virtually unchanged from the 5,235 deaths in 2004. However, there was a 4.8 percent leap in truck occupant deaths in a single year, from 766 in 2004 to 803 in 2005.
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased for all age groups in 2005 except for ages 4 to 7 and 8 to 15.
  • The total number of alcohol-related fatalities, the rate, (measured per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) and the percent of all motor vehicle fatalities essentially remained the same indicating no progress.

 

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.

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