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Motor Vehicle Deaths Drop For First Time In 6 Years; Seat Belt Use Cited



"For the first time in six years, motor vehicle deaths fell last year, mostly because of increased seat belt use, federal highway officials said. Fewer people in vehicles and fewer pedestrians were killed, but motorcycle deaths rose by 12 percent last year and were up 73 percent since 1997, because more people are riding motorbikes and fewer are wearing helmets. For all types of vehicles, the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a standard measure of highway safety fell to an all-time low. The number of crash-related injuries also declined. Norman Y. Mineta, the secretary of transportation, said nearly 1,000 lives were saved last year because more people were using seat belts; he attributed the increase to tougher state laws and a federal campaign to encourage people to buckle up. Highway officials were pleased that the number of motor vehicle fatalities had declined by almost 1 percent, or 362 deaths, but they said the broader problem was still enormous."

Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, 08/11/2004