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NHTSA: Traffic Deaths Increase 7.2%

August 30, 2016

According to NHTSA, job growth and lower fuel prices were two factors that led to increased driving in 2015. Photo by Tony Webster of San Francisco via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.
According to NHTSA, job growth and lower fuel prices were two factors that led to increased driving in 2015. Photo by Tony Webster of San Francisco via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.

Last year saw a 7.2% increase in U.S. road fatalities compared to 2014, according to newly released updated figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The nation lost 35,092 people in traffic crashes in 2015, ending a five-decade trend of declining fatalities. Traffic deaths rose across nearly every segment of the population. The last single-year increase of this magnitude was in 1966, when fatalities rose 8.1% from the previous year, according to NHTSA.

Ten years ago, the number of traffic deaths was nearly 25% higher, with 42,708 fatalities reported nationwide in 2005. Since then, safety programs have helped lower the number of deaths by increasing seat belt use and reducing impaired driving. Vehicle improvements, including air bags and electronic stability control, have also contributed to reducing traffic fatalities.

“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”

One key question is how to use statistical analysis to improve the targeting and effectiveness of behavioral-change marketing campaigns.

NHTSA will share its Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) with safety partners, state and local officials, technologists, data scientists, and policy experts. And private sector partners using new data collection technologies will be offering access to unprecedented amounts of data and new visualizations tools.

According to NHTSA, job growth and low fuel prices were two factors that led to increased driving, including more leisure driving and driving by young people. More driving can contribute to higher fatality rates. In 2015, vehicle miles traveled increased 3.5% over 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years. 

Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities increased to a level not seen in 20 years. Motorcyclist deaths increased over 8%. NHTSA also noted human factors continued to contribute to the majority of crashes. Almost half of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.

Research also shows that almost one in three fatalities involved drunk drivers or speeding. One in 10 fatalities involved distraction.

“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”

In 2015, collisions involving bicyclists climbed. In fact, pedal-cyclist fatalities increased by 89 (a 12.2% jump) and were at their highest level since 1995. Photo courtesy of NHTSA.
In 2015, collisions involving bicyclists climbed. In fact, pedal-cyclist fatalities increased by 89 (a 12.2% jump) and were at their highest level since 1995. Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

A number of private firms and universities are already committed to helping identify such solutions, NHTSA pointed out. They include:

  • StreetLight Data, a mobility analytics provider that transforms geospatial data from mobile devices into metrics that describe travel patterns. The company is providing free access to its data sets, which describe driving patterns in the vicinity of fatal crashes. Researchers and data scientists can request access to the data, which will be provided at no cost through the end of 2017. 
  • CARTO, a leader in location intelligence using an analytical platform for geospatial data. The company is making FARS data available to the public through its platform and allowing researchers to combine data from other government and private-sector sources. 
  • Mapbox, a mapping platform for developers. The company is developing interactive tools to better educate citizens about fatal crashes that occur around them in their daily lives. For example, Mapbox will launch an application that uses the fatality analysis data along with the firm’s directions service to show crashes along a commute route over the last five years, along with information about contributing factors such as alcohol or excessive speed.
  • Waze, a free, real-time traffic and navigation app. The company, part of Google, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation to share data through the Connected Citizens Program. This free program helps municipal leaders harness real-time driver insights to improve congestion and make better informed planning decisions. 

For more details about NHTSA's updated data on 2015 traffic fatalities, click here.

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  1. 1. Stephen [ August 30, 2016 @ 01:17PM ]

    This "the world is ending" nonsense by the 'safety" advocates without mention that the decrease that occurred after 2007.was ECONOMIC! Needs to stop. The 2015 increase is ECONOMIC!

    Just compare 2007 to 2008 the year the recession hit. The deaths dropped from 41,259 to 37,423 DUE TO THE ECONOMY!

    That was a close to a 4,000 drop in ONE YEAR because of the start of the RECESSION!

    That was a RECESSION DROP!

    The 2007 was also last time we had a record driving year till 2015.

    It is really important to NOT compare 2015 to the recession years as any comparison to 2008 to 2014 numbers SKEW the results due the recession affecting the numbers.
    Here are 2006 thur 2014.
    2006 US Death rate per mile 1.42 Total Deaths 42,708 Miles Driven 3.014 Trillion (3,014 VMT Billion)
    2007 US Death rate per mile 1.36 Total Deaths 41,259 Miles Driven 3.031 Trillion
    Recession Begins
    2008 US Death rate per mile 1.26 Total deaths 37,423. Miles Driven 2.977 Trillion (2,977 VMT Billion)
    Full year of recession
    2009 US Death rate per mile 1.15 Total deaths 33,883. Miles Driven 2.957 Trillion
    2010 US Death rate per mile 1.11 Total deaths 32,999. Miles Driven 2.967 Trillion
    2011 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,479. Miles Driven 2.950 Trillion
    2012 US Death rate per mile 1.14 Total deaths 33,782. Miles Driven 2.969 Trillion
    2013 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,894. Miles Driven 2,988 Trillion
    Starting to leave Recession
    2014 US Death rate per mile 1.08 Total deaths 32,675. Miles Driven 3.026 Trillion (3,026 VMT Billion)
    Also note that the “speeding’ number is from a category called “speed related” and is counting any crash that has speeding there REGARDLESS of Cause.

    “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers a crash to be speeding-related “if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.”

    So if a drunk its you and you are 5 over it is listed as “speeding’ even though your 5 over DID NOT cause it.
    NHTSA data out of 25 states listed crashes caused by “exceeding” the speed limit as low. “Out of 2.7 million traffic accidents recorded in twenty-five states over the course of a year, only 1.6 percent were caused by drivers who exceeded the posted speed limit. The figures come from an analysis by TheNewspaper of annual reports typically compiled by each state for use in applying for grant money from the National Highway Transportation Agency (NHTSA).”

    The cause is driving miles increasing with more DUI, younger drivers, and more discretionary driving.
    Also it is important to mention the DR per mile! It was 1.12 for 2015, lower than 2012 which was 1.14!

  2. 2. Michael Galorath [ August 31, 2016 @ 12:59PM ]

    Thank you Stephen for your in depth report. Like every government agency the boy who cried wolf. No details just a comment and everyone runs for the doors. Stephen thank you again. You answered the question I asked a few days ago.

  3. 3. DM [ September 01, 2016 @ 10:56AM ]

    I am sure there are some on New Jersey Ave in DC thinking there has to be another FMVSS which can be added to control external factors to driver and passenger safety...I can see the proposed ruling now...regulators chomping at the bit...Well, I guess if you never acknowledge where the target is, you can rightfully say you never missed it...Good work Stephen, you obviously have some safety miles behind you...


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