A preliminary report released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contains some good news and some bad news. Overall, traffic fatalities appear to have dropped some 3% in 2010, down to 32,788 deaths from 33,808 in 2009. Unfortunately, auto accident-related deaths in the Midwest (including Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) increased over that same period. The increase of about 200 fatalities in this region was offset by huge decreases elsewhere in the country.

If these numbers are confirmed, 2010 will be the safest year on record since 1949. In other words, it has been over six decades since fewer people died on the road. This continues the recent trend of fewer car crash fatalities, which have been declining over the last several years. A number of factors could be responsible for the decline, from safer cars to national and regional public education campaigns focusing on driver behavior.

Whatever the reason, safe streets are a good thing. Hopefully 2011 will be even better.