Traffic Deaths Increase by 7.7 Percent in 2015, NHTSA Says
Image: Pexels

Traffic Deaths Increase by 7.7 Percent in 2015, NHTSA Says

Nine out of 10 regions within the United States saw increases in trafffic-related deaths

July 5, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released preliminary data that show a 7.7 percent increase in motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2015. About 35,200 people died on the roads in 2015, compared to 32,675 reported fatalities in 2014.

The most significant increases came for pedestrians and bicyclists. Although the data are preliminary and require additional analysis, the early NHTSA estimate shows nine out of 10 regions within the United States had increased traffic deaths in 2015 (the region including Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas is the anomaly).

"Every American should be able to drive, ride or walk to their destination safely, every time," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a written statement. "We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on."

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind attributes part of the increase to the improved economy and decreased gas prices putting more drivers on the road.

"But that only explains part of the increase," Rosekind writes. "Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior while promoting vehicle technology that not only protects people in crashes, but helps prevent crashes in the first place."

In response to early estimates showing fatality increases, the agency convened a series of six regional safety summits with key stakeholders throughout February and March. As a result of those summits, the agency is working to develop new tools that could improve challenges including impaired driving, speeding, failure to use safety features such as seat belts and child seats, and new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is also pressing forward with new guidance to promote the development of automated safety technologies, which could greatly decrease the number of crashes. NHTSA hosted two public meetings on automated safety technologies, in advance of guidance that will be issued later this summer. In March, the USDOT announced a key safety agreement with automakers requiring more than 99 percent of new vehicles to have automatic emergency braking standard by 2022.

NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are also working closely on the implementation of the new safety performance measures, which require states and metropolitan areas to set targets for reducing deaths among motorized and non-motorized road users.