Transportation Fatalities Fall In 2008

Transportation fatalities in the United States decreased by almost 10 percent in 2008 from 2007, according to preliminary figures released by the National Transportation Safety Board. This marks the third consecutive year of decreasing transportation fatalities.

"While the statistics reveal an encouraging trend line, there is still much work to be done to ensure that fewer families each year will face losing a loved one in a transportation accident," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NTSB chairman. "We at the NTSB will continue to press hard advocating improvements in all modes of transportation to keep this trend moving in the right direction, because every transportation fatality is an unnecessary tragedy."

The data indicate that total transportation fatalities in all modes fell by almost four thousand, from 43,384 in 2007 to 39,397 in 2008. Along with a significant reduction in highway fatalities, rail and pipeline deaths also decreased but fatalities in the aviation and marine modes ticked up slightly.

  • Highway fatalities, which account for more than 94 percent of all transportation deaths, fell by 3,998 (from 41,259 to 37,261). Motorcycle fatalities, however, continued to climb (jumping from 5,174 to 5,290) following a long-term trend that began in 1998 and has continued unabated. Buses and motorcoaches were another exception to the drop in highway fatalities. The number killed in this category almost doubled in a single year (from 36 to 67).
  • Aviation deaths increased slightly from 550 to 572. Nearly 87 percent of aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents (495), which was almost unchanged from the previous year (496).
  • Marine deaths increased slightly (from 766 to 779), with the vast majority occurring in recreational boating (709).
  • Fatalities involving commercial passenger vessels fell 50 percent, from 24 to 12.
  • Rail fatalities fell slightly from 794 to 777. The vast majority of these fatalities were persons struck by a rail vehicle.
  • Pipeline fatalities dropped from 15 to 8, with decreases in both gas and liquid pipeline operations.

Aviation statistics are compiled by the NTSB. Marine numbers are provided by the Department of Homeland Security, and numbers for all other modes by the Department of Transportation.

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