For half a century, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been in the vanguard on highway and auto safety, committed to the goal of reducing losses–deaths, injuries, property and vehicle damage–on the nation’s roads.

IIHS has been successful beyond the wildest imagination of its remarkably foresighted founders. Without exaggeration, over the past 50 years, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved and millions of injuries avoided–or their severity lessened, in whole or in part–because of the fine work of this institution. Here are some examples:

When IIHS was established 50 years ago, about 36,000 people died annually on America’s roads. Amazingly, fewer people–34,017 to be exact–were killed last year, in 2008. While the toll is still too high, consider for a moment how extraordinary this achievement is.

Back in 1960, when IIHS was just getting its start, there were 87 million licensed drivers in the United States who owned 61 million vehicles and drove them for a then record 303 billion miles. Compare that to 2008, when 205 million licensed drivers drove 256 million vehicles some 2.9 trillion miles.

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