The 2009 traffic fatalities statistics will not be out until the middle of 2010. These are issued by FARS, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So please allow me to review some of the statistics from 2008.

The total traffic fatalities in the United States during 2008 were 37,261 which was a reduction of 3,998 over the previous year. This represents the lowest traffic deaths in the past 15 years. Each year over that same 15 year period the fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has dropped from 1.73 to 1.27.

The only category that showed a significant rise in fatalities was motorcyclists.

The top link at the Blogroll on right in this blog gets you to these statistics.

I speculate that there are 2 major reasons for the overall reductions. The first is that cars are safer. More people are driving newer and safer cars and more occupants are using their seatbelts. The second reason is that the drunk-driving laws are being more heavily enforced.

Be safe out there. If you have not taken a defensive driving course in some time (5-10 years) find one and take it. Senior Citizen centers offer them, often for free or a very low price. You can always learn something at one of these courses. About 2 years ago I took the one offered at my local Senior Citizen center. It was a great refresher for me. I did make a couple changes in my habits because of what I learned in the course.

Did I say: Be safe out there? If you think the other driver will do something stupid to put you in jeopardy, he or she probably will. Not every time, but often enough to be a potential crash.

Who is behind Sarah Palin? There are people behind her and supporting her efforts to remain on the national scene. We need to keep track of this “Palin Phenomenon.” She is flying around the country making television appearances. Someone is footing the bill.

You can bet the farm that she will be going to classes on national and international issues. She’s bright (mostly), witty and attractive; and she has a star appeal. I don’t think she is going back to the cold Alaskan winter to disappear from the national scene. If she is as smart as she thinks she is, she will follow the lead of her supporters, educate herself on the issues, and truly become a factor in national politics.

Do not discount her; but keep you eye on her and her supporters.

When Senator Ted Stevens gets booted out of office, I’d bet half the farm that she will run for his seat.

Become used to seeing this phrase: National Health Insurance Exchange (NHIE). It is an integral part of Mr. Obama’s Healthcare Plan. Right now there are basically 2 types of medical coverage in the US, private insurance and Federal government programs. The private programs include regular health insurance, employer (and union) provided insurance, and HMOs. The Federal programs are principally Medicare and Medicaid. The NHIE is somewhat of a hybrid of these two approaches.

If you are serious about learning about Mr. Obama’s program I suggest that you visit the Urban Institute’s web site, specifically to This Link which is an analysis of the program. Be sure and read the pdf file with a “short” review of the program.

The plan is not perfect. No healthcare plan can be. It will still leave about 6% of legal, non-elderly residents uninsured, compared with 17% today. The costs are of course only estimates but currently the estimate is for around $50-60 billion dollars per year. That’s a large amount of money, but remember the Iraq war is costing us around $3 billion per week. That’s over $150 billion per year. See where the money can come from to pay for this program?

Yes, we are in a financial melt-down right now, but with sound fiscal policies coming out of the new Administration, I believe the money will be there.

There may be heavy political opposition to parts of the plan, especially the employer mandate portion, but if you study the plan with a positive attitude I think you will see that it is workable. In fact, it is the only plan that has any chance of becoming law and meeting the expectations of its framers.

Now is the time to ensure that the new Administration brings this to the table very early is its life. The war in Iraq and the financial problems will certainly take a great deal of attention, but there is room for this program as well.