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Car accident fatalities spike nearly 10%

NHTSA study shows traffic fatalities increased from 23,796 in 2014 to more than 26,000 in 2015 (during first nine months of each year)

car accident fatalities

Traffic deaths spiked by nearly 10% from 2014 to 2015, according to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In a February 5, 2016, press release, NHTSA stated:

“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced its latest estimate of traffic deaths, which show a steep 9.3 percent increase for the first nine months of 2015. … NHTSA estimates that more than 26,000 people died in traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2015, compared to the 23,796 fatalities in the first nine months of 2014.”

What makes the spike in traffic deaths even more frustrating is how it contrasts with the safety progress that’s been made in recent years. In particular, NHTSA explained that traffic deaths had been in a “steady decline” before 2014:

“The estimated increase in highway deaths follows years of steady, gradual declines. Traffic deaths declined 1.2 percent in 2014 and more than 22 percent from 2000 to 2014.”

So why did this happen?

NHTSA says it doesn’t know … yet.

“It is too soon to speculate on the contributing factors or potential implications of any changes in deaths on our roadways,” NHTSA explained in its January 2016 “Traffic Safety Facts” report, “Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Nine Months (Jan – Sep) of 2015.”

However, in a November 2015 interview with the Detroit Free Press about traffic deaths during the first six months of the year, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said:

He “suspects increased texting behind the wheel and other forms of distracted driving are among the likely explanations” for the jump in traffic fatalities.

As for what can be done to reverse this deadly trend, NHTSA’s Rosekind suggested the following:

“[S]tate governments could save more lives by adopting stricter laws regulating the use of smartphones, seat belts and motorcycle helmets.”

As an accident attorney and a safety advocate, these are all issues  that I’ve blogged about in the past. Texting is causing more crashes, and more fatalities.  I see this from my own accident cases.  I’ve written that Michigan needs to catch up to other states when it comes to stopping people from texting while driving and causing terrible car accidents. I’ve also written about the increase in fatalities from motorcycle accidents after the helmet law repeal. Here are some of my previous posts on these subjects:

Why is Michigan falling behind other states on penalties for texting and driving?

3 years after motorcycle helmet repeal, injuries and deaths soar

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