Traffic deaths last year least since 1949

LaHood and NHTSA Administrator David Strickland hailed the numbers Friday.

“Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news, and it proves that we can make a difference,” LaHood said in a statement. 

“Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day," he continued. "We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving and encourage drivers to put safety first.”

“The decrease in traffic fatalities is a good sign, but we are always working to save lives,” Strickland also said in a statement.  “NHTSA will continue pressing forward on all of our safety initiatives to make sure our roads are as safe as they can possibly be.”

The Transportation Department noted that the number of road fatalities declined even though Americans traveled nearly 21 billion more miles on highways in 2010.

The U.S. region with the biggest decline in fatalities was the Pacific Northwest, the DOT said. The states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska each saw a 12 percent drop.