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GHSA News Release

May 31, 2007

Contact: Jonathan Adkins

GHSA: Highway Fatality Figures Present Both Encouragement and Signs of Concern

Statement for Attribution to Christopher J. Murphy, Chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released its 2006 Preliminary Estimate of Highway Fatalities. The data indicates that in 2006 there were 43,330 deaths overall, compared to 43,443 in 2005. While we are always pleased to see a decline, far too many people continue to lose their lives in preventable traffic crashes.

The report offers a few signs for optimism. We are very pleased that injuries are projected down by six percent, likely in part due to an increase in safety belt use. In fact, nonfatal crashes are projected below six million for the first time. Fatalities from large truck crashes dropped by 3.7 percent and pedestrians deaths also made a slight decline.

I am particularly concerned that motorcycle fatalities have increased for the ninth straight year and show no sign of easing. To help reduce these fatalities, GHSA urges states to adopt a comprehensive motorcycle safety program including mandatory helmet laws. It's frustrating that only Louisiana has enacted a helmet law in the past decade. Only twenty states have these lifesaving laws. It is time for action on this issue.

GHSA members are also troubled that alcohol-related fatalities increased 2.4 percent. This is particularly disheartening given that late last summer GHSA, along with our partners, NHTSA and MADD, launched the most ambitious drunk driving enforcement campaign ever. While enforcement and prevention remain critical in reducing drunk driving, technology may lead to significant new reductions. GHSA urges every state to require alcohol interlock devices for all first-time offenders. Through enforcement, prevention and technology, we can turn this tragic trend around.

State Highway Safety Offices also report that excessive speeding by motorists has reduced the expected gains in lives saved by historically high seat belt use. State studies as well as those by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicate that motorists are driving at record speeds, well above posted limits. GHSA is committed to working closely with NHTSA and other partners to bring the issue to the forefront of the national highway safety agenda.

A critical component to address all of these behavioral highway safety problems are primary seat belt laws. Passage of such a law results in a state's safety belt use rate rising 8-12 percentage points which translates into hundreds of lives saved. I congratulate Alaska, Kentucky, Maine and Mississippi for recently enacting these laws and urge the other 24 states without primary seat belt laws to quickly follow suit. Along with passing these laws, high-visibility enforcement campaigns are key to increasing safety belt use. Congratulations to Washington state for achieving a 96.3 statewide usage rate in 2006-the highest in the nation.

The preliminary figures offer some positives but also raise some alarms. State highway safety offices in partnership with MADD, DOT and law enforcement remain committed to developing and implementing life-saving programs and reducing the scourge of traffic fatalities.

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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit