NHTSA: Preliminary data shows 2015 traffic deaths increased by 7.7 percent

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 7/21/2016

More than 35,000 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic-related incidents this past year, a 7.7 percent increase from 2014, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA’s data reveals nine of 10 regions experienced an increase in traffic deaths in 2015. Region 6 – Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas – had the only decrease (1 percent) in traffic deaths. Region 10 – Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington – experienced the largest increase at 20 percent.

The largest increases by “person type” came from pedestrians and bicyclists at 10 percent and 13 percent respectively. Among crash types the largest increase involved young drivers (15 to 20 years old). Passenger vehicle rollovers went up 5 percent, and crashes involving large trucks were up 4 percent.

Although an improving economy and low fuel prices have put more drivers on the road logging more miles, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a press release those factors explain only part of the increase. Rosekind claims that 94 percent of the crashes can be attributed to “human choice or error.” Vehicle miles traveled in 2015 went up 3.5 percent, an increase of 107.2 billion miles.

“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,” Rosekind said.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s research arm, OOIDA Foundation, cautions against accepting the raw numbers as the full picture.

The Foundation points out that the summary states that the number of miles traveled increased and as there is more traffic it would naturally follow that there is a greater risk of crashes.

OOIDA Foundation’s Andrew King also pointed out that while final stats will be available later this year, the final statistics taking into account stats such as vehicle miles traveled will not be published until 2017 and are likely to change. King also noted that 2014 traffic deaths data involving large trucks showed a decrease of 2 percent.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced an agreement with automakers in March that would require nearly 100 percent of new personal vehicles to have automatic emergency braking standard by 2022. The commitment does not include heavy-duty trucks. Light-duty cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 pounds or less will have the systems by September 2022. Trucks with a gross vehicle weight between 8,501 pounds and 10,000 pounds will be standard no later than September 2025.

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