Figure 5.1 Motor vehicle traffic injury deaths per 100 million vehicle miles in the United States, 1950–1996. Source: National Safety Council, 1997.

miles were driven, with a death rate of 4.43; and in 1996, the figure was 2,467 billion miles driven, with a death rate of 1.76 per 100 million miles. Had the mileage death rate of 1972 prevailed in 1996, the number of deaths would have been almost 110,000 rather than 43,399. It has been estimated that between 1966 and 1990, 243,400 lives were saved as a result of federal highway, traffic, and motor vehicle safety programs (NHTSA and FHWA, 1991).

Reasons for Progress: A Comprehensive Approach

For the first six decades of motor vehicle traffic on the highways, the federal and state governments worked primarily on building and improving highways and roads, while state and local governments regulated who could drive and how; vehicle design was left to the marketplace. In most respects during those

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