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Car safety contributes to falling crash fatality rate

According to federal statistics, fewer people are dying in fatal car accidents on U.S. highways than ever before, or at least since records were first tallied back in 1921. While a number of factors are at play, the biggest is perhaps car safety and technology.

U.S. highway traffic deaths have fallen by about 25 percent since 2005. That's a sharp decrease in a short number of years. As new technology is introduced into more and more new vehicles, the number of deaths will likely continue to fall.

It's not often that the federal government mandates changes to all vehicles, such as when the seatbelt was first required about 40 years ago. However, last year, electronic stability control was added as a requirement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Rear cameras are becoming more popular and may be added to the list as well.

Generally, there are two types of technology at play here: active and passive.

Active technology is designed to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Examples include active lane keeping, forward collision avoidance and blind spot monitoring. It used to be that only the most upscale models of vehicles would offer features of this kind voluntarily. However, now we're seeing more advanced features available in even entry level models of cars. That not only reflects companies' need to compete, but more affordable electronic hardware.

Passive technology, too, is becoming more and more mainstream. It's intended to reduce accidents when an accident does occur. Many vehicles offer multiple air bags, while some are rolling out inflatable seatbelts that can particularly aid very old and very young passengers who are prone to internal injuries.

Passive and active technology are clearly succeeding in reducing the number of deadly accidents, as evidenced by the most recent numbers.

Source: MSNBC, "Highway deaths plunging as cars become safer," Paul A. Eisenstein, May 22, 2012

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