First Half of 2016 Witness to Sharp Jump in Road Fatalities

Since 1966, the number of deaths due to traffic accidents has fallen each year, thanks to improvements in vehicle safety technology and greater education and enforcement of laws on subjects such as speeding and drunken driving. However, this 50-year-old trend has begun to shift in the opposite direction. The administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced recently that the first half of 2016 was more than 10% more deadly than the first six months of 2015, and that the rate of roadway fatalities has reached a “crisis” level.

The climb in the number of roadway fatalities brings the number of those killed in traffic accidents in 2016 to 17,775, a fatality rate not seen since 2009. The NHTSA believes that the second half will bring an even greater number of roadway deaths, due to improvements in weather and seasonal driving patterns. The NHTSA announced its intention to bring other federal agencies and safety organizations together to address this seriously-concerning problem of road safety, with a specific aim of reexamining and improving road design and speed limits.

This release of data marks a 10% increase over the fatality rates from 2015, a year that itself held the dubious distinction of being the first in fifty years where the total number of fatalities resulting from traffic accidents increased over the previous year’s total. 35,092 people were killed in traffic accidents last year, a 7% increase over the total number of fatalities from traffic accidents in 2014. The total number of traffic accidents increased by 4%, and the number of injuries resulting from accidents went up by 4.5%, to 2.44 million. Many of these injuries and fatalities have been attributed to pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists.

According to the NHTSA, 94% of all crashes are caused by human error. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind has previously addressed the human factors which often play a role in fatal crashes, and the need to change driving attitudes and laws to eliminate the avoidable deaths which occur as a result. “The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled. While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities,” Rosekind said.

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