Indiana sees drop in traffic fatalities


Kevin Rader/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Gov. Mitch Daniels says tougher seat belt and drunken driving laws helped bring the traffic death rate down to its lowest since 1925.

Traffic fatalities in Indiana have dropped more than 25 percent in the past five years.

"Indiana has experienced fewer traffic fatalities than any year since 1925," said the governor Wednesday.

That number dates back to when Calvin Coolidge was president, Babe Ruth dominated baseball and the Scopes trial dominated the headlines. It's all the more remarkable considering there are eight times more vehicles on the road today.

"The basic story here is good laws strongly enforced," said Daniels.

Indiana added 250 state troopers and they are keeping busy. According to Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell, troopers were writing around 500,000 citations a year when he took over five years ago. In 2008 that increased to 976,000 and in 2009 that number has increased even more to one million citations issued. That wasn't the only change.

"This year we took a step back at what were the three major accident prone locations in each county; what were the ten most accident causing factors throughout the state and we now dedicate three and a half hours of every troopers time of every shift, specifically to patrol those areas that are high crash areas," said Whitesell.

Gov. Daniels also credits state lawmakers for enacting strong legislation such as requiring seats belts in trucks and lowering alcohol limits.

"We have put more emphasis on drunk driving arrests this year than any of the last five we've been together here," said Whitesell.

Statistics show Hoosiers driving the same number of miles this year as last but there were only 711,364 vehicles registered in Indiana back in 1925 compared to 5,676,076 today.

"It is a remarkable accomplishment," said Daniels.

Technology also plays a big role, like the 150 miles of new cable safety barriers on interstate medians. A test on 35 miles of I-65 and I-69 showed 156 strikes without any vehicle crossing into oncoming traffic.

State records show traffic fatalities have dropped by more than 25 percent since 2004.

Here are Indiana traffic fatalities since 1999:

1999 - 1,020
2000 - 886
2001 - 909
2002 - 792
2003 - 833
2004 - 947
2005 - 938
2006 - 902
2007 - 898
2008 - 814
2009 - 680-x

x-Preliminary through Dec. 28

Sources: Indiana State Police, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.