The Increase in Auto Accident Deaths

According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), we’re suffering more fatal auto accidents than we have since 2008. Not good news.

These results were hinted at last December when the NHTSA noted an increase of nearly 10 percent in the number of deaths. All were associated with traffic accidents over the first nine months of 2015. Now that we have all the data, 2015 appears to be the worst year for traffic deaths for the last several years.

NHTSA Finds Auto Accident Related Deaths Increasing

The report was published in July, and showed that an estimated 35,200 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015.

This was an increase of about 7.7 percent over the deaths that occurred in 2014. With preliminary data showing that the number of miles driven in this country also increased by about 107.2 billion, or 3.5 percent. Deaths suffered by motorcyclists, bicycle riders, and pedestrians also increased significantly between 2014 and 2015.

The NHTSA says that the actual counts for both years “will be further revised as the final files for 2014 and 2015 are available later this year.”

NHTSA Seeks Out New Solutions to Reduce Human Error Behind the Wheel

In a related NHTSA press release published July 1, 2016, the data show that about 9 out of 10 regions within the U.S. had increased traffic deaths in 2015. Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind stated that with reduced gas prices, more Americans are driving more miles. But that this only partially explains the increase in deaths.

“Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error,” he stated. “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.”

After seeing the preliminary results showing the increases, the NHTSA convened a series of six regional safety summits last February and March. It discusses behavioral safety countermeasures and innovative approaches to improving safety, and to formulate a long-term vision for traffic safety.

Based on what was discussed during those safety summits, the NHTSA is now working with key stakeholders. Their goal is to develop “new tools that could improve behavioral challenges including drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving. Also speeding; failure to use safety features such as seat belts and child seats; and new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.”

Results of the report so far indicate the following:

  • Deaths among bicyclists increased by 13 percent
  • Pedestrian deaths increased by 10 percent
  • Motorcycle deaths increased by 9 percent

DOT Working with Auto Manufacturers to Implement Safety Technology

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is working to increase safety by teaming with auto manufacturers to implement new safety devices. In March, they announced an agreement with automakers that will result in 99 percent of vehicles being equipped with AEB. This stands for automatic emergency breaking. It applies the brakes to avoid an auto accident. Their goal is to make this standard equipment by 2022.

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