Traffic Deaths Reached 9-Year High In 2016: Report

Government highway safety officials indicate that 2016 may have been the deadliest year on U.S. roadways over the past decade, with more than 40,000 motor vehicle fatalities recorded, and recent trends in accident deaths suggest an emerging national problem with steady annual increases. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) issued a press release on February 15, announcing that there was a six percent increase in motor vehicles deaths in last year over 2015, and a 14% increase when compared to 2014.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the last 25 years of tracking U.S. traffic related fatalities has shown a steady decrease in the numbers, with 2014 hitting a record low of only 32,675 traffic deaths; 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. However, since 2014, the rate of motor vehicle crash fatalities has been steadily increasing, with nearly 10 consecutive quarterly increases in traffic related deaths, reaching the most dramatic two-year escalation in more than 53 years.

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The recent NSC 2016 survey pulled data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to find fatality data occurring within 100 days of a recorded crash on both public and private roadways, including parking lots and driveways.

Researchers found that present-day drivers are likely to engage in dangerous and distracting behaviors while behind the wheel, which is believed to greatly contribute to the increasing collision trends. Despite 83% of drivers surveyed reporting they view driving as a safety concern, 64% stated they are comfortable speeding above posted speed limits, 47% reported texting manually or through voice control was an acceptable behavior while driving and 23% reported the use of marijuana or alcohol was acceptable before taking the wheel.

The injury and fatality data indicates that more than 4.6 million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention in 2016, resulting in roughly 40,000 fatalities. The traffic related injuries and fatalities included all vehicle related accidents and also all pedestrian and bicycle collisions which have been on a sharp increase over the last several years according to the NHTSA.

The NSC survey data indicates that traffic related accidents and injuries or all degrees cost society an estimated $432 billion in 2016 alone, making it one of the largest financial hits since 1921 when the NSC began issuing traffic fatality estimates.

“Our complacency is killing us. Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true,” NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said in the press release. “The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven’t done it.”

As a result, the NSC is calling for the immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would direct the nation toward zero deaths.

The agencies first recommendation is to mandate ignition interlock systems for those convicted of drunk driving and offer better treatment and education. Additional recommendations include installing and using automated enforcement techniques to catch speeders, extend laws banning cell phone use, upgrade seatbelt laws, and to convert secondary seatbelt laws into more enforceable primary laws.

A major push from the agency is to accelerate fleet automotive technologies with life-saving potential such as blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking (AEB) and lane departure safeguards.

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