Despite an increase in the number of traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving, the nationally rate of traffic fatalities fell last year to its lowest level since record keeping began in 1949.

These numbers come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which records all vehicle crashes and compiles statistics accordingly. The NHTSA is the same group which released a study in December that showed that the number of traffic fatalities caused by distracted driving had eclipsed those caused by crashes caused by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This led to multiple calls for a nationwide ban on the use of handheld devices by all drivers, with so far just a handful of states following through.

The reason for the national decline in traffic fatalities has something to do with an increase in driver safety; more driving education and more awareness of the dangers faced by everyone who gets into a vehicle and hits the road. It also has something to do with an increase in the safety and quality of our bridges and roads; our awareness of traffic problems, ways of diverting and directing vehicles, and controlling the flow of cars and trucks.

More than anything else, perhaps, the decline in annual deaths from traffic crashes is caused by an increase in the overall safety and quality of the vehicles we drive. Our cars today are safer. Seat belts are just the start of the safety package in cars today. Driver side and passenger side air bags; side curtain air bags, collision avoidance systems; smart cars which help you maintain better control; better tires, better brakes and reinforced automobile bodies that can take more punishment than ever before.

But whatever the underlying cause of the decline traffic fatalities, it stands as a testament to the continued efforts by multiple industries and groups at keeping us safe and sound in the cars that we drive.