All those factors are certainly important, says TIME Wall Street columnist Daniel Kadlec. But there is one more key item. "The welcome development is also being driven by the baby boomers who have now reached the demographic sweet spot of safer driving," he says. The bulge of drivers born at mid-century is entering the 40 to 59 age group, which has the lowest rate of traffic deaths. "This is yet another amazing phenomenon from a group that has been bending the world around them from birth," says Kadlec. "It's yet another manifestation of the same story thatís been going on for 50 years." The maturation of America's driving population has not only led to safer roads, he reports, but also to cheaper insurance rates -- 2.8 percent lower than last year, on average. Who says the graying of America is all bad news?
As America drove full speed ahead into the Memorial Day weekend, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an encouraging set of numbers: Alcohol-related traffic deaths hit a record low last year, 15,936, and the total number of deaths on the nation's roads, 41,480, dipped slightly from the previous year and an impressive 19 percent from two decades ago. Authorities credit stricter law enforcement, more stringent drunken driving laws and the increasing use of seatbelts for the good news.