The grim picture from the first half of 2015 has only grown worse as more numbers come in. The first nine months of 2015 saw an increase in traffic fatalities of 9.3 percent. Around 26,000 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents from January to September 2015. During that same period in 2014, there were 23,796 traffic fatalities. The increase is not simply the product of more driving, either. Fatalities per mile traveled rose last year, as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the 2015 projections last week. Following the release, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the preliminary data “is a signal that we need to do more.” The head of the NHTSA called for “behavioral changes in traffic safety,” including efforts to combat long-standing problems such as drinking and driving and failing to properly use seat belts.
While the fatalities per mile driven did rise, the total number of miles driven rose more. The reported figure for vehicle miles traveled in 2015 was 3.5 percent higher than in 2014. Increased congestion does carry an increased risk of car accidents, including fatal car accidents. Improvements in driver behavior are important, but it is also important to promote the safest possible driving conditions on our roads.
Traffic fatalities have been on the decline, generally, for many years. More people died in crashes in 1934 than in 2014, despite traveling less than one-tenth as many miles. The remaining traffic deaths can reasonably be tied to the most stubborn problems in traffic safety. With that in mind, it is reasonable for the NHTSA to target things like drunk driving, distracted driving and refusal to use the safety technology available.
Source: Transport Topics, “Traffic Fatalities Up 9.3% for First Nine Months of 2015, NHTSA Says,” by Eric Miller, 8 February 2016