In our zeal to get rid of Big Government, let's not throw any babies out with the bath water. For example, as a result of government programs, each mile driven on US streets and highways is 85% less likely to cause your death now than it was in 1949, 80% less likely than in 1966, and half as likely as in 1989, according to unpublished data obtained from NHTSA.
This dramatic improvement has been driven by regulations and standards (seat belts, air bags, head restraints, infant seats, crash resistance, collapsible steering columns, rollover resistance, tire quality, drunk driving enforcement, etc.) and by government spending on safer roadways. If there is a plausible explanation for how this might have been accomplished as efficiently (or at all) by market forces, I haven't heard it. Furthermore, the achievement came in spite of concurrent regulatory programs requiring better fuel economy (fuel consumption per vehicle mile traveled is down 40% from 1975) and vastly reduced per-mile pollution. Looks like a very big success to me.
Government isn't the answer to every problem, but it isn't always the problem either, Ronald Reagan's rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding. Let's try to get past the slogans and ideology and look at the merits of individual government programs--before we start them and when we consider ending or defunding them.
According to this EPA document, combined tailpipe emissions of HC, NOx, and CO by new cars were about 103.6 grams per mile in the early 1950s. According to this BTS document, the average for the whole fleet of cars and trucks had been reduced to 11.53 grams per mile by 2008, an 89% reduction. Today's standards for new vehicles require combined emissions be less than 4% of 1950s levels.
Today's NYT Science Times has in an informative megagraph showing the jerky year-by-year change in auto fatalities per 100,000 people versus vehicle miles driven per capita. Strung along the time line are brief summaries of key events that may have influenced the changes, e.g., the muscle car era, followed by Ralph Nader and federal safety regulations, then the energy crises and the nationwide 55 mph speed limit, then universal seatbelt requirements and a crusade against drunk driving, followed by the rising popularity of rollover-prone SUVs, then more safety regulations, and finally the Great Recession. The causations are much more speculation than proven, but the piece provides an excellent starting point in the search for causation of the very real declines in fatalities by more than 50% since the 1960s even as vehicle miles per capita doubled.