Traffic deaths last year lowest since ’61


The number of Americans killed on U.S. highways last year was the lowest since 1961, the Department of Transportation announced Monday.

Last year’s death toll was put at 37,313. In 1961, the number of lives lost was 36,285. The numbers were compiled by the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In addition, the rate of deaths on U.S. highways hit a record low last year — 1.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.36 in 2007, the department said in a news release.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood credited more widespread seat belt use for the drop. NHTSA estimated that Michigan had the highest seat belt use, at 97.2 percent, while Massachusetts registered the lowest, at 66.8 percent.