US figures show new road safety programmes are helping reduce fatalities, especially for motorists driving heavy vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Programmes encouraging the use of safety belts and new hours-of-service regulations have improved highway safety, reducing the death count, the NHTSA says.

Truck-involved traffic fatalities in the US witnessed a decline of 12% in 2008, from 4,822 in 2007 to 4,229 in 2008, figures show.

Truck-occupant deaths also decreased by 16% in 2008, from 805 in 2007 to 677.

Motor vehicle fatalities also decreased from 41,259 in 2007 to 37,261 in 2008, resulting in 9.7% decline.

The administration says that these figures should further decrease in coming years when the 18-point safety agenda by the American Trucking Associations is put in place.

The agenda addresses ways to improve driver performance, increase vehicle safety and the safety of motor carriers using a range of policies that will be enforced for heavy truck users.