The number of people killed in car accidents has steadily declined although traffic accidents remain the leading cause of death among young people, according to a Statistics Canada report released Wednesday.

According to the federal agency, a total of 97,964 people — 71 per cent of whom were males — were killed in traffic accidents between 1979 and 2004. In yearly comparisons, there were 2,875 deaths in 2004 as compared with 5,933 deaths in 1979. The federal agency said a number of reasons contributed to the decline.

"Technological advances such as anti-lock braking, airbags, improved seatbelts and child restraints make vehicles safer," the report said.

Average annual deaths from motor vehicle accidents per 100,000 population

Yukon - 16.4

Saskatchewan - 14.4

P.E.I. - 13.4

Nunavut - 13.3

New Brunswick - 13.1

Alberta - 11.4

B.C. - 10.2

Manitoba - 10.0

N.W.T. - 9.6

Quebec - 9.1

Nova Scotia - 8.9

N.L. - 7.8

Ontario - 7.0

(Source: Statistics Canada)

"Legislation and enforcement of speed limits, blood alcohol levels, seatbelt use, bicycle helmets for children and other safety measures are intended to protect vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists. Changing social norms discourage drinking and driving."

But the report notes many drivers and passengers are still vulnerable. Failure to use seatbelts is still a concern and many caregivers don't correctly install car seats. Use of cellphones and navigation devices also poses safety hazards, the federal agency said.

The report also noted high fatality rates among young people. Among people under the age of 30, one in five deaths was caused by a car accident from 2000 to 2004. By comparison, 1.3 per cent of deaths among all age groups were a result of motor vehicle accidents.

The report also noted seniors had a death rate of 13 per 100,000 people between 2000 and 2004. Of the 1,746 traffic accidents involving pedestrians, 636 were aged 65 or older.

Death rates were highest in the Yukon between 2000 and 2004, followed by Saskatchewan, P.E.I., Nunavut, New Brunswick, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador were the only two provinces with death rates below the national average of nine per 100,000.