Traffic Deaths

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The government reports more people died on the nation's highways last year, but the fatality rate fell to a record low.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says overall, 42-thousand-800 people died on highways last year. That's up 157 from 2003.

At the same time, there were more people on the road, so the fatality rate edged down to one-point-four-six deaths per 100 (m) million vehicle miles. That's the lowest rate in nearly 40 years of records.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says if that many people died from a single disease in a year, "Americans would demand a vaccine."

He says seat belts are the best countermeasure.

Fifty-six percent of those killed weren't wearing seat belts, a rate unchanged from 2003.

The data is considered projections. The safety group plans to release final 2004 fatality figures in August.