Traffic-related deaths increased sharply in 2015, NHTSA says

cars on highway

Photo: TomasSereda/iStockphoto

Washington – A total of 35,092 people died in traffic-related incidents in 2015 – up 7.2 percent from 32,744 the previous year and the largest one-year percentage increase in nearly 50 years, according to data released Aug. 29 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

The data, published in the August issue of Traffic Safety Facts, shows that the estimated number of people injured increased to 2.44 million in 2015 from 2.34 million.

Other findings included in the report:

  • Nearly half of the drivers killed were not wearing a seat belt.
  • Alcohol-impaired driving deaths increased 3.2 percent to 10,265.
  • Distracted driving played a part in about 1 in 10 deaths.
  • Pedestrian deaths increased 9.5 percent to 5,376, the highest total since 1996.
  • Passenger deaths rose 6.6 percent to 22,441, the most recorded since 2009.
  • Pedalcyclist fatalities increased 12.2 percent, their highest level since 1995.

In response, NHTSA, the Department of Transportation and the White House have announced “a call to action” to examine the reasons behind the increase in traffic fatalities. NHTSA notes that “the last single-year increase of this magnitude” was recorded in 1966, when fatalities jumped 8.1 percent from the previous year.

“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a press release. “Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.”

In addition to the call to action, DOT is scheduled to host a special session at its Safer People, Safer Streets summit on Sept. 16 to discuss the increase in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities with city leaders taking part in the Mayor’s Challenge.

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