Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation spares us a new announcement about newly proposed rules regulating this or that -- as has been its wont lately. Instead we are offered a review of its benign contributions to the public weal, especially on road safety.
In justification for his current campaign against the "epidemic of distracted driving," TheHood and his staff are quick to claim credit for American roads in 2009 being "the safest they have ever been, with the lowest traffic fatality and injury rates ever recorded."
I think the secretary should be more modest. Credit for that encouraging development lies elsewhere. While improved car technology is helping save more lives, the Great Recession has proven to be the best means of lessening American travelers' road miles, with the corresponding reduction in injuries and fatalities.
Here is a useful representation (courtesy of Prof. Mark J. Perry's blog) of the decline in vehicle miles during the economic decline, according to FHA data:
While vehicle miles driven are on the rebound in recent months, we may reasonably expect the Great Inflation of 3Q and 4Q 2011and the Greater Depression to follow will send the chart down again -- and traffic accident number plummeting further.
So the Fed and the Obama administration's economic team should take their bows for last year being "the best ever recorded" in one respect.