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Back to Archives | Back to November 2004 Contents 

From the Director

From The Administrator: Thank You for Your Hard Work

By Jeffrey Runge, M.D., Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, D.C.
n August 10, 2004, U. S. Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced the results of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Annual Assessment for 2003. The secretary announced that the 2003 results reflect the first absolute decline in highway fatalities since 1998 (42,643 from 43,005 in 2002) and achieve what is estimated to be the lowest fatality rate ever recorded (1.48 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, down from 1.51 in 2002).

Although this news is encouraging, it should not necessarily surprise the law enforcement community. During the past several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has worked with law enforcement and other partners to identify areas that would make the greatest difference in death and injuries on our roadways. By identifying the areas of occupant protection, impaired driving, rollover mitigation, vehicle compatibility, and data quality as priorities, NHTSA has been able to focus the efforts of the entire agency to reducing deaths and injuries where the numbers show that they occur.

The extraordinary efforts of law enforcement significantly contributed to our success, especially during the safety belt mobilizations and impaired driving crackdowns. We continue to demonstrate to the driving public that the issue of traffic safety is not taken lightly. Although none of this would have been possible without NHTSA’s work with congressional committees, our regional and state counterparts, industry, safety advocacy groups, governors, state highway safety offices, EMS providers, and state truck inspectors to effect improvements in these key areas, it is law enforcement’s visible role that most directly affects the safety of the motoring public.

Much of the work being done is part of a multiyear effort, but it is already beginning to pay off in terms of results. Among the highlights in the annual assessments:

  • Overall fatalities dropped by 362 people, in spite of increases in population, vehicle registrations, and miles traveled.

  • In passenger vehicles, 939 fewer people died in 2003 than 2002, a reflection of increased safety belt usage.

  • Alcohol-related fatalities declined by 511, with the greatest reduction in the group with blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels over 0.08.

  • Injuries in crashes declined by more than 1 percent to 2,889,000, the lowest number since NHTSA began keeping records.

A little over a year ago, Secretary Mineta charged NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with reversing the upward trend in highway fatalities and injuries. We were bound and determined to do so, and through our many successful partnerships, we have done so.

We need your continued support in the national effort to continue the reduction in crashes in which persons are killed and injured. In 2005 we will continue our priority efforts to increase safety belt use and decrease the number of persons driving while impaired. The national impaired driving crackdown will be August 19–September 5, 2005, and the seat belt mobilization will take place from May 23 to June 5, 2005. With law enforcement’s continued dedication to these lifesaving campaigns, we can continue to make a difference.

Thank you for your overwhelming dedication and commitment to reducing traffic-related fatalities and injuries. Our partnerships are instrumental to our success, and we look forward to our continued collaboration to reduce fatalities and injuries in the years to come.


From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 11, November 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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