By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
1949 seems to have been a good year, at least for statisticians. As we approach the end of 2011, a variety of end-of-year reviews are being released, and 1949 appears as a reference or baseline in two of them.
● First, although the numbers are still being finalized, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that the 2010 number of traffic fatalities is at the lowest levels since 1949. Their projected number of 32,788 deaths is three percent below 2009’s level, and 25 percent below 2005.
The reduction is even more significant in view of the overall slight increase in vehicle miles driven in 2010, and work out to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million miles driven. By region, the Pacific Northwest states showed the greatest reduction – 12 percent – with other regions close behind at nine or ten percent drops.
Experts differ on the reasons for the decline in road deaths in the last five to eight years, and there may be no single answer to point to. Vehicles are plainly safer and more crashworthy, but others cite a difficult economy that forces people to drive less. Additionally, better emergency services and hospital care often prevent a death after an accident.
● Building on the discussion of national vehicle miles driven (VMD), the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission has released its data through the end of September, showing that total miles driven is down by about 1.5% compared to 2010. They predict that trend will probably hold true to the end of this year.
Although VMD showed an increase in 2010, it did not come close to the peak number achieved in November of 2007. The numbers trend downward from that date. Again, those trying to explain such things find many answers including the economy in general, alternate forms of freight shipping (rail or air), and severe weather in some regions.
● It’s become almost a national buzzword, and a favorite of any politician. Ask just about anyone and you’ll find the usual “deep concern” for reducing U.S oil imports. Now, want to see their eyes cross?—ask them about U.S. fuel exports.
A variety of sources, including the U.S Energy Administration, are predicting that if the current trend continues, for the first time in 62 years—yes, since 1949!—our nation will become a net exporter of refined fuels and petroleum products. To be clear, we still import raw petroleum, but after its turned into gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel or high grade lubricants, this year’s trend says that we will export more of it than we bring in from elsewhere.
International fuel markets are booming, and many countries have little or no refining capability. Additionally, the U.S stock available for export is probably increased by both our diminished miles driven and the improving fuel mileage on new vehicles.
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