I’m a bit late on this, but it’s still worth mentioning. Via the NY Times:

Traffic deaths in the United States declined last year, reaching the lowest level in more than a decade, the government reported Thursday. Some 41,059 people were killed in highway crashes, down by more than 1,600 from 2006. It was the fewest number of highway deaths in a year since 1994, when 40,716 people were killed.

You can’t attribute the entirety of the decline to reduced driving: law enforcement and vehicle safety both play important roles. But driving less and slower driving matter a lot too. So while I’ve complained that the recent gas price spike is mostly bad news, this definitely qualified as a silver lining:

Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said the sluggish economy was likely a factor in the declines. He predicted that the combination of a slowing economy and gas prices approaching $4 a gallon throughout the U.S. could lead to further reductions in highway deaths in 2008. Many states have reported double-digit drops in fatalities during the first part of this year.

Nice to hear.

But still: does anyone else find it appalling that more than 40,000 people die on American roads every year? Every time I see these figures, I’m shocked.

A single year of driving yields 10 times as many American dead as five years of war in Iraq.