The numbers are even worse for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates 2015 could have been among the deadliest years in recent memory on American roads. The government agency predicts 35,200 died on the country’s highways last year – a 7.7-percent increase from 2014. If the final figures followed this trend, 2015 would have been the worst since 2008 when NHTSA recorded 37,423 fatalities.

One factor in the increased deaths could be that people are driving more. According to the Federal Highway Administration, people drove 107.2 billion miles in 2015. However, this was only a 3.5-percent increase from 2014, so it didn’t come close to matching the rate at which fatalities increased.

No matter how NHTSA evaluates the preliminary figures, 2015 looks like a bad year on America’s roads. Out of its 10 regions, fatalities increased in 9 of them. The worst was a 20-percent jump in the Northwest, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

The problem isn’t limited to motorists, either. Compared to 2014, bicyclist deaths climbed 13 percent; pedestrians soared 10 percent; and motorcyclists jumped 9 percent. In comparison, driver deaths grew six percent, and passenger deaths increased seven percent.

NHTSA’s calculates this preliminary data from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System, but the agency is still collecting info from police crash reports and other sources. It expects to have the final information later this summer. Based on past reports, the gruesome estimates here are a good indication of what to expect from the conclusive numbers.

Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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NHTSA data shows traffic deaths up 7.7 percent in 2015 
 
NHTSA 15-16
Friday, July 1, 2016

WASHINGTON – Preliminary data released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a 7.7 percent increase in motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2015. An estimated 35,200 people died in 2015, up from the 32,675 reported fatalities in 2014.

“Every American should be able to drive, ride or walk to their destination safely, every time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.”

Although the data are preliminary and requires additional analysis, the early NHTSA estimate shows 9 out of 10 regions within the United States had increased traffic deaths in 2015. The most significant increases came for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “But that only explains part of the increase. Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error, 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.”

In response to early estimates showing fatality increases,the agency convened a series of six regional safety summits with key stakeholders throughout February and March. As a result of those summits, the agency is working to develop new tools that could improve behavioral challenges including drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving; 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.

In addition, when the final dataset is released later this summer, DOT and NHTSA will issue a call to action to safety partners, state and local elected officials, technologists, data scientists and policy experts to join the Department in searching for more definitive answers and developing creative, open data-driven solutions to improve safety and reduce deaths caused by motor vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is also pressing forward with new guidance to promote the development of automated safety technologies which could greatly decrease the number of crashes. NHTSA hosted two public meetings on automated safety technologies, in advance of guidance that will be issued later this summer. NHTSA and FHWA are also working closely on the implementation of the new safety performance measures, which require States and metropolitan areas to set targets for reducing deaths among motorized and non-motorized road users.

“The July 4 holiday is historically one of the deadliest days on U.S. roadways, so this weekend Americans should take extra care to ensure they get to their destinations safely,” Foxx added. “Every driver should make sure all of their passengers are buckled up every time, and no driver should get behind the wheel when they’ve been drinking.”

In March, the Department of Transportation announced a key safety agreement with automakers requiring more than 99 percent of new vehicles to have automatic emergency braking standard by 2022. This safety technology could prevent thousands of crashes every year. The Department is working to require vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems on new vehicles, a technology which could help drivers avoid or mitigate 70 to 80 percent of vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers. DOT is also working with researchers on technologies that could prevent drunk driving, which is responsible for close to one-third of highway deaths.

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