Car accident deaths in 2015 rose at the highest rate in decades

Newly released data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 7.2 percent increase in automobile accident deaths nationwide from 2014 to 2015. In total numbers, this is 32,744 in 2014 and 35,092 in 2015.

This may not seem like much, but it is a more alarming when you consider that the last time the United States experienced an increase this high was in 1966. The White House and Department of Transportation have issued a call to action for researchers, safety experts, crash data scientists and the public to explore ways we can prevent this level of traffic fatalities in the future. 

Traffic fatalities were 25 percent higher a decade ago, at 42,708. The reduction since then has been attributed to increased seat belt use, a decrease in drunk drivers and safer vehicles, with air bags, stability controls and other features.

Officials say the increase in car accident fatalities in 2015 can be traced back to more vehicles on the road, partially due to job growth and decreased gas prices. Other causes of these accidents are:

  • Drunk driving, speeding and other reckless driving (30 percent of fatalities)
  • Distracted driving (10 percent of fatalities)
  • Lack of seat belt use (almost half of all fatalities)

Detailed information and a breakdown of the crash data by several attributes can be found in the NTSA's press release. Fatality data includes a breakdown by state, type of vehicle and type of crash and is linked to the press release. Non-fatal accident data is included in the report as well.

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