Fewer people were injured in crashes on the nation's roadways in 2006 than the year before, extending a string of declines every year since 1995, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said yesterday during a visit to Severna Park High School.
Peters, visiting the Anne Arundel County school to promote teen driver safety, said injuries dropped by 4.8 percent - to 2,575,000 - from 2005 to 2006.
Injuries to teen drivers dropped even more sharply, by 6 percent, over the same period, Peters said.
The steady decline in injuries represents a contrast with the figures for fatalities on the nation's roads, which have shown a slight increase over the levels posted in the mid-1990s.
In 2005, the last year for which figures were available for fatalities, 43,443 people died on the nation's roads, an increase from 2004. However, fatalities per mile traveled showed a steady decline over the past decade until a small uptick in 2005.
Speaking to a group of students at the school's media center, Peters also announced several initiatives to promote highway safety.
One is a nationwide competition in which teenagers will be challenged to develop advertising and education programs to promote safe driving among their peers.
The Transportation Department will award $300,000 each to two states to develop campaigns to promote the use of seat belts, Peters said. In addition, two states will receive $100,000 grants to fight drunken driving through the use of ignition interlock systems that disable vehicles of intoxicated drivers. The states have not yet been chosen, she said.
Peters told the group of 50 to 60 students that this time of year - with proms and graduation - is one of the most dangerous for young drivers. She urged students to avoid distractions behind the wheel.