NHTSA News Release - August 22, 2006

NHTSA 07-06
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Contact: Rae Tyson
Telephone: (202) 366-9550

Rise in Motorcycle and Pedestrian Deaths Led to Increase
in Overall Highway Fatality Rate in 2005

An increase in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths contributed to an overall rise in highway fatalities in 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced today. The total number of fatalities rose 1.4 percent from 42,836 in 2004 to 43,443 in 2005 while the rate of fatalities was 1.47 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), up from 1.45 in 2004.

Despite the spike in motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities, Acting Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino noted other fatality trends were improving. She explained that the number of young drivers dying in car crashes declined in 2005 for the third straight year while the number of children who were killed in crashes also declined. The largest drop was for children ages 8-15.

“We have no tolerance for any numbers higher than zero,” said Acting Secretary Cino. “Motorcyclists need to wear their helmets, drivers need to buckle up and all motorists need to stay sober.”

The Acting Secretary said the increase in vehicle fatalities comes from the dramatic rise in the number of motorcycle fatalities and increases in the number of pedestrian fatalities over the previous year. She noted, for example, that motorcycle fatalities rose 13 percent from 4,028 in 2004 to 4,553 in 2005 and that almost half of the people who died were not wearing a helmet. The number of pedestrian fatalities increased to 4,881 in 2005 from 4,675 in 2004, the Acting Secretary added. NHTSA is investigating this year’s increase in pedestrian fatalities to determine the cause.

Cino said NHTSA is working to reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities by encouraging motorcyclists to get proper training, always wear helmets, and absolutely never drink and ride. She added that the Department’s Federal Highway Administration is working with state and local governments to improve pedestrian safety and that the agency is providing more than $600 million over the next three years to help states develop pedestrian safety programs.

Specifically, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that, between 2004 and 2005, the number of young drivers (16-20) killed declined by 4.6 percent from 3,538 to 3,374. Fatal crashes involving young drivers declined by 6.3 percent from 7,431 to 6,964. Meanwhile, the number of children 0-15 dying in crashes dropped from 2,622 in 2004 to 2,348 in 2005.

Cino added that the number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes declined 3.2 percent from 2.8 million in 2004 to 2.7 million in 2005. Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities also dropped by 451, from 31,866 in 2004 to 31,415 in 2005, the lowest level since 1994.

In addition, the number of fatalities from large truck crashes declined slightly from 5,235 to 5,212, while the number of occupants killed in rollover crashes increased 2.1 percent from 10,590 to 10, 816. And the number of SUV rollover fatalities dropped 1.8 percent from 2,929 to 2,877.

“We will not be satisfied until the fatality and injury numbers reach zero,” said NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason.

NHTSA collects crash statistics annually from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to produce annual reports of traffic fatality trends. The 2005 report can be seen at:

Reporters interested in seeing additional state data as well as data at the county level should go to NHTSA's National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) State Traffic Safety Information (STSI) website located at