It looks as if another Bush administration goal is slipping away. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta set an admittedly tough target of cutting the nation's highway death rate by 2008 to one fatality for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Americans drive nearly 3 trillion miles a year.
Last week the administration released traffic-fatality data for 2005. And for the first time since 1986, the death rate went in the wrong direction, rising to 1.47 per 100 million miles traveled, from 1.45 in 2004. The number of fatalities rose to 43,443, up from 42,836 the year before.
But the data suggest cars and trucks were not the main culprits. Rather, a sharp jump in motorcycle deaths and an unexplained rise in pedestrian fatalities propelled the overall increases. The number of car and light-truck occupants who died last year declined to 31,415, from 31,866 in 2004.