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Truck-involved traffic fatalities declined 12 percent last year

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were nearly 600 fewer truck-involved fatalities in 2008 than 2007.

The number of truck-involved traffic fatalities in the United States declined 12 percent in 2008, dropping from 4,822 in 2007 to 4,229, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week.

"This news marks a major accomplishment for safety professionals, professional drivers and all highway users. We are hopeful that this will be an ongoing trend. As the trucking industry continues to implement regulations and safety technologies, coupled with better education for motorists on how to drive around big trucks, we can look forward to continued reductions in the fatality rates," said John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association.

In addition to a 12 percent reduction in crash fatalities involving large trucks, the number of truck occupant deaths decreased 16 percent in 2008, from 805 in 2007 to 677. The overall number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States decreased 9.7 percent from 41,259 in 2007 to 37,261 in 2008, the lowest level since 1961.

Programs dedicated to increasing the use of safety belts, coupled with new hours-of-service regulations, which took effect in 2005, have greatly improved highway safety. The truck-involved fatality rate is now at its lowest since the U.S. Department of Transportation began keeping those statistics in 1975.