A number of studies cited in Sivak's study also show that rural driving is more dangerous than urban driving. The roads are narrower, and people tend to drive faster, thus pushing the death rate up.
And maybe it's time to give Detroit a little credit. After fighting safety features for so many years because of fears that higher costs would lead to fewer customers, manufacturers finally came to the realization that safety sells. Today's cars have many features, including airbags and such routine things as better brakes that undoubtedly save many lives every year.
Thousands still die each year on the nation's roads, but the latest statistics are encouraging. Deaths are down 20 percent in Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Virginia. Fatalities increased in only four states in 2008, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming.
What's troubling in all these figures, however, is the simple fact that it takes an economic emergency, or at least a financial downturn, to have a significant impact on highway fatalities. What does that tell us about our priorities?