According to the latest statistics on traffic fatalities in the U.S., deaths rose by 5.6 percent in 2016, with pedestrians and motorcycle accidents accounting for more than a third of the increase.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the 2016 fatal crash data report on October 6, comparing the number of highway traffic fatalities last year to data from 2015, noting that this represents the third consecutive annual increase.
Despite increases in vehicle technology that are designed to mitigate and prevent vehicle crashes, and limit serious injuries for occupants, automobile accidents continue to increase across the United States. There were at least 37,461 accident deaths in 2016; compared to 35,485 recorded in 2015.
Researchers from the NHTSA cited several trends in the research that show distracted driving accidents, which are estimated to be the root cause of 94 percent of all accidents, decreased by 2.2 percent, while drowsy driving fatalities decreased by 3.5 percent.
The most significant increases per category of vehicle related deaths were recorded among pedestrians, motorcycle operators and bicycle riders, totaling a combined 15.4 percent increase in all traffic related fatalities recorded in 2016.
Alone, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists made up nearly 33 percent of all traffic related fatalities for 2016, with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed last year, which is the highest annual rate recorded since 1990.
The NHTSA found motorcycle deaths were found to have increased by 5.1 percent; accounting for 5,286 fatalities, which is the largest number on record since 2008. Although motorcycles inherently carry a higher risk of injury and death when involved in collisions, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have current laws mandating helmets for motorcycle riders.
A further review of helmet safety laws found states that require helmet use for motorcycle drivers had less fatalities per motorcycle accident. In states with helmet laws, 8 percent of those killed weren’t wearing helmets, compared with 58 percent in states without helmet laws.
Fatalities involving bicyclists reached 840 in 2016, making it the highest number of accident recorded among cyclists since 1991.
Among other major contributing causes of automobile fatalities, data showed drunk driving deaths caused 10,497 roadway deaths in 2016, which is a 1.7 percent increase when compared to 2015. Speeding related fatalities were also found to have increased by 4 percent and unbelted occupant fatalities increased by 4.6 percent.
Despite national seat belt usage rates hitting 90.1 percent in 2016 when compared to 86.7 in 2014, there were still 10,428 traffic fatalities involving unbelted occupants for the 2016 calendar year.
The NHTSA recommends pedestrians should always use sidewalks when available and cyclists and pedestrians should always be predictable when approaching crosswalks. Cyclists should never deviate from bike lanes, when they are present, to avoid collisions, and should always abide by traffic signals.