WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The number of people killed on U.S. highways fell for the fifth consecutive year in 2010, marking the longest streak of declines since records began in 1899.
Fatalities dropped 2.9 percent to 32,885, the lowest since 1949, the Washington-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today in an e-mailed statement. Deaths of motorcyclists, pedestrians and large-truck occupants increased.
"While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we're making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation's roadways," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the statement.
LaHood, who has made distracted driving his signature cause, also narrowed the way U.S. regulators quantify whether distractions such as talking on a mobile phone or sending text messages contributed to the reasons for a crash. Using the new measure, 3,092 deaths, or 9.4 percent, of 2010 road fatalities were related to driver distraction.
The fatality rate, or the number of people killed per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, fell to 1.1 last year from 1.15 in 2009.
In 1899, when the government first reported the statistic, 26 people died in motor-vehicle crashes.