Traffic deaths in 2010 fell to their lowest levels in more than 60 years, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Safety technology in vehicles has made huge leaps in recent years and has lowered death and injury rates in collisions.
Even the base models of 2012 vehicles are now required to have antilock brakes, electronic stability control, tire pressure sensor monitors and multiple airbags. More expensive vehicles have extra features such as backup cameras and blind-spot warning lights and alerts.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest total since 1949. He said the record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6% over the 2009 level.
"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," LaHood said.
The updated information released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also highlights that 2010 had the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009.
In another key statistic, regulators said deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9% in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
Still, the improvements were not uniform. Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders and large truck occupants.