Preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show a 7.7 percent increase in traffic fatalities last year.
An estimated 35,200 people died in traffic-related collisions last year, an increase from 32,675 reported in 2014. NHTSA cautions that the data are preliminary and requires additional analysis, but an early estimate shows nine out of 10 regions in the U.S. had increased traffic deaths last year. According to the agency, the most significant increases came for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Earlier estimates showed that traffic deaths were on the rise after years of decline, causing NHTSA to convene a series of six regional safety summits with key stakeholders throughout February and March. From those summits, NHTSA is working to develop new tools in hopes of improving behavioral challenges such as drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, failure to use safety features like seatbelts and child seats as well as new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users including pedestrians and cyclists.
The final dataset will be released later this summer and the Department of Traffic (DOT) along with NHTSA will issue a call to action to safety partners, state and local elected officials, technologists, data scientists and policy experts to search for more definitive answers to developing creative, open data-driven solutions to improve safety and reduce vehicle-related deaths.
“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.”