Highway deaths overall declined 1.9 percent in 2011 to 32,367 compared to 2010, the lowest level in more than six decades since 1949, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The 2011 drop builds upon the downward trend in recent years, reflecting a 26 percent decline in traffic fatalities overall since 2005.
Although Americans drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, the nearly two percent drop in roadway deaths outpaced the corresponding 1.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled.
Maryland's 2011 traffic fatalities declined 2.2 percent from 496 deaths to 485, a reduction of 11 fatalities.
The key factors contributing to the nationwide overall drop include a reduction in deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers and a decline in fatalities of occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUV's, minivans and pick-ups).
"The decline in overall fatalities is a reflection of the progress that's been made in traffic safety, but one death is still one too many and the work to reduce motor vehicle crash-related deaths and injuries is far from done," commented Christine Sarames Delise, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
"Motor vehicle crashes remain a public health threat and we have an opportunity and an obligation to continue investing in making drivers, vehicles and our transportation network safer. AAA Mid-Atlantic will continue to partner with safety organizations and law enforcement to promote safe driving practices and to advocate in the legislature for stronger traffic safety laws," added Delise.
While passenger cars and light truck occupant fatalities declined in 2011, traffic deaths increased for large-truck occupants, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.