Highway traffic deaths fell to 32,885 in 2010, the lowest level since 1949, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
The number of fatalities decreased in spite of a 1.6 percent increase in the number of miles driven by Americans last year over 2009.
In addition, the fatality rate for 2010 was the lowest ever recorded, with 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009.
"While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we're making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation's roadways," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press statement.
The updated statistics for 2010 showed highway deaths fell in most categories, including for occupants of passenger cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups. Deaths in crashes involving drunken drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009.
However, fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders and large-truck occupants.
Besides saving lives, improved safety also saves money for car insurance companies, which translates into lower car insurance rates for consumers.