Child traffic deaths at an all-time low, overall fatalities remain flat

Monday, April 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of children killed in auto crashes last year was the lowest since the government started tracking traffic deaths 36 years ago, according to figures released Monday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 2,658 children under 16 died in 2001, down 5.4 percent from the previous record low of 2,811 set the previous year.

``There has been a lot of emphasis on protecting children and I think those efforts are starting to pay off,'' NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said.

Many states in recent years have passed tougher laws requiring that children be belted or ride in safety seats. And several major automakers have developed programs to educate parents about proper use of restraints.

NHTSA said the overall number of traffic fatalities dropped slightly, from 41,821 in 2000 to 41,730 in 2001.

Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the National Association of Governors' highway safety representatives, said there was concern highway deaths would rise because the terrorist attacks prompted more people to drive rather than fly.

Motorcycle fatalities rose for the fourth consecutive year, to 3,067, the highest number in 11 years. Alcohol-related deaths remained unchanged at 40 percent of all fatalities, or 16,652 deaths.

The NHTSA figures, which are preliminary, are based on data collected by police at accident scenes nationwide. The final 2001 tally is expected in August.