Traffic fatalities at the end of last year declined to record lows, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. There were just 1.16 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) - down from 1.25 fatalities per 100 million VMT just a year earlier.

The news dovetails with the formation of a new coalition of highway safety agencies and law enforcement that it calling for increased funding of state highway safety programs.

The State Highway Safety Alliance and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have set a goal of reducing the number of annual traffic deaths to below 20,000 by 2030. The State Highway Safety Alliance consists of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials.

The coalition is urging Congress to include the following in its long-term highway reauthorization bill:

  • Streamlined program administration and enhanced flexibility to focus federal resources where they are most needed - such as rural roads, where at least half of all fatalities occur;
  • Enhanced data collection and analysis so that problems can be identified and progress tracked; and
  • Increased investment in safety research and development so that states can implement evidence-based programs.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which collects crash statistics to produce annual reports on traffic fatality trends, expects the final counts for 2009 to be possibly the lowest level ever recorded, despite a slight increase in vehicle miles traveled. Final statistics will be available within the next few months.