Here's some good news you didn't read much about this year: U.S. roads are safer.
The number of people who died in U.S. traffic crashes fell 3 percent in 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
That year's total: 32,719 fatalities.
That's still 32,719 more than anyone would like to see, but it's a huge improvement. Four decades ago, 54,000 people were dying on our roads every year.
The 2013 rate of fatalities fell to the lowest rate on record -- 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.14 the previous year and matching the all-time low set in 2011.
"The data continues to show that this is just about the safest time to travel on America's roads in the history of America's roads," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a conference call with reporters. "Our fatality rate is at its lowest point ever."
The latest figures come from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a census that collects fatal-crash data from 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, with data from 2013 being the most recent available.
Who deserves the credit for the drop in fatalities overall and the drop in the fatality rate?
The prepared remarks by Foxx and his colleagues gave all the credit for the improvement to federal regulations and regulators.
NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman credited law enforcement and his agency's work as key factors in the 25 percent decline in overall highway deaths since 2004.
"There are strong regulations and consumer information programs that are driving progress in making vehicles safer and ensuring that they do a better job of protecting people when they are in a crash," Friedman said.
Not until prodded by a reporter's question did Foxx and Friedman concede that safety technology developed by the auto industry had helped.
An enormous number of people at automakers and suppliers work day after week after month to help make our cars, trucks and roads safer.
So do people outside or on the periphery of the industry. Think Mothers Against Drunk Driving, traffic experts who try to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart, regulators, law enforcement personnel and, yes, even the liability-lawyer crowd. Each group has a role to play.
Some might see the lower fatalities as an indictment of this year's obsession with recalls. I don't. Any safety recall that improves the survival odds of motorists and pedestrians is good in my book.
But if all the recall headlines have convinced Americans that cars are unsafe, that's a shame.
Everyone working to make motoring safer deserves acknowledgement from the public for work that is paying off. We owe everyone involved a big thank you. And we should resolve to keep this trend moving in the right direction.