Innovative Auto Safety Technologies Contribute to Historic Low in Highway Fatalities; Stronger Laws and Enforcement also Key

December 8, 2011

Washington, DC - Automakers today said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announcement that 2010's road traffic fatality and injury rate reached an historic low of 1.10 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a testament to the many safety advancements, including innovative, lifesaving vehicle technologies, the highest safety belt use rate ever and comprehensive efforts to prevent drunk driving. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded history. NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also showed a 2.9 percent decline in actual fatalities from 2009 to 2010, even as VMT increased by 1.6 percent.

"We all have a role to play to keep our roads safe," said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Mitch Bainwol. "For our part, automakers are continuing to build on years of manufacturer-initiated safety enhancements. Today, motorists take for granted such lifesaving technologies as side air bags, electronic stability control systems, anti-lock brakes and protected passenger compartments. Yet automakers are not sitting back; our engineers are hard at work on the next generation of innovations to help make drivers and passengers even safer.

"Strong laws with visible enforcement also are critically important to sustaining this positive trend," noted Bainwol. "Recent NHTSA data showed that while 16 jurisdictions have safety belt use rates above 90 percent, too many states are below the national average of 85 percent. This gap must be reversed so we can continue to save even more lives. The safety belt remains the most significant piece of safety equipment in the vehicle. The Alliance will continue the industry's longtime, strong support for increasing belt use through enactment of primary enforcement state belt use laws and the annual ‘Click It or Ticket' national enforcement period.

"We must also redouble our efforts to reduce drunk driving, the cause of about a third of traffic fatalities every year. That's why automakers support MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, which calls for continuing stepped-up enforcement, adoption of state all-offender ignition interlock laws and research on technologies which will prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle.

"Safe driving practices, particularly when it comes to drivers paying attention to the road, are important as well," Bainwol added. "Alliance members have continued to combat the issue of distracted driving with national campaigns designed to raise public awareness of the risks of being distracted while behind the wheel. Since 2003, Alliance members have been designing in-vehicle technologies to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

"Automakers will continue to focus on vehicle innovations that make the biggest safety contributions in the real world, and on the advancements of strong and effective traffic safety laws and practices. The job is not done. But we are particularly gratified that these statistics show that there's never been a safer time to drive on our roads," Bainwol concluded. Learn more at www.autoalliance.org.