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OUR OPINION : Safe drivers contributed to reduction in fatal accidents

Drivers, start receiving compliments.

You have played an integral role in helping decrease traffic fatalities to their lowest level in more than 50 years.

Traffic deaths nationwide in 2009 plummeted 9.7 percent, to 33,808, the lowest number since 1950, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. In 2008, recorded traffic fatalities were 37,423.

Similarly, Missouri experienced 82 fewer traffic deaths, an 8.5 percent reduction, in 2009.

We concur with the prevailing wisdom attributing the decline to a combination of factors.

They include:

  • Better roads. Highway engineers are discovering and incorporating more safety improvements. Crossover barriers in medians, rumble strips edging highways and more visible striping are only a few of the enhancements.
  • Safer vehicles. A benefit of auto industry competition is an emphasis on building safer vehicles. Improvements include anti-lock braking systems, side air bags and anti-rollover technology.
  • Proactive law enforcement: A trend in law enforcement is to establish checkpoints to intercept violators and prevent accidents. Checkpoints have identified motorists driving while intoxicated, failing to properly restrain children and other violations.
  • The economic downtown: Although this is a proverbial nationwide cloud, the silver lining is that fewer vehicles on the roadways translate to fewer accidents.
  • And, finally, heightened safety consciousness among driver. Safety campaigns focusing on awareness, sobriety and eliminating distractions have contributed to fewer fatalities.

Despite this vast improvement, much remains to be done. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood invoked a highway metaphor when he said: “Although we have come a long way, we have a long distance yet to travel.” Well said.

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