Crediting her agency's "focus on safety," Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters expects traffic deaths to reach a record low in 2008. Could the fact that Americans have now driven 100 billion fewer miles than normal have also contributed to the life saving? Seems likely, but Sec. Peters failed to mention it.
According to Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates, 31,110 died on the nation's highways from January through October 2008, compared to 34,502 during the same period in 2007 - a reduction of almost 10 percent.
"Our focus on safety - from our highways, railways, seaways and airways - has led to one of the safest periods in our nation's transportation history," said Sec. Peters in a press release, adding that, "For the second year in a row we are seeing historic lows in deaths on our nation's roads."
Of course we've also seen historic lows in driving on our nation's roads. Sec. Peters might recall that back in August, she was lamenting the drain on the Federal Highway Trust Fund resulting from America's greatly reduced driving. And in November, when the cumulative "miles not driven" reached 90 billion, the DOT admitted it was "secretly hoping" Americans would really drive more, in order to finance needed road and bridge projects.
It's great that fewer people are being killed on U.S. highways, but the DOT should also acknowledge the fact that the less we drive, the less we die.