Motor Vehicle Fatalities Go Up for First Time in Five Decades

After fifty years of decline in fatality rates on American roads, 2015 is the first year in memory that more people were killed in motor vehicle accidents than in the previous year. 35,200 people were killed in accidents in 2015, according to preliminary data analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is a 7.7% increase over the 32,675 killed on the road in 2014.

Researchers are still hunting for the cause of the uptick in fatalities, and have not yet landed on an explanation. A strengthening economy is to blame for at least a part of the increase. Due to rising employment rates and sinking gas prices, total vehicle miles traveled in the US was up by 3.5% in 2015, inevitably resulting in more accidents along the way. But this number does not account for the total number of lives lost.

Dr. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, described the overwhelming influence of human error on the occurrence of fatal crashes. He stated that “94% of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error.” He went on to share that “the data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled. While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.” According to the NHTSA, approximately half of all those killed in motor vehicle accidents were not wearing a seat belt when the accident occurred, and a third of fatal accidents involve at least one intoxicated driver. While the NHTSA reports that distracted drivers are the cause of 10% of fatal car accidents, some researchers believe that this is an underreporting of the true impact of distractions on roadway safety. The NHTSA statistic is based on police reports and eyewitness testimony, but proving that someone was distracted prior to a crash often requires self-reporting by the at-fault driver, which many distracted drivers are reluctant to admit.

Jonathan Adkins, the executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, noted that while new safety technologies are important, certain strategies have been tested by time and shown to be highly effective. “They include strong laws coupled with highly-visible law enforcement and robust public education campaigns. By using these tactics, the nation saw a nearly 25% drop in the number of fatalities between 2005 and 2014, including a record low in 2011,” he explained. While unpopular among many drivers, red light cameras have also been found to have a deterrent effect on unsafe driving. The IIHS has found that, in cities that once had active red light cameras which it disabled, traffic accident fatalities increased by 30%. Red-light-running accidents are a common source of harm to drivers, having caused 126,000 injuries and 709 deaths in 2014 alone.

If you have been injured by a drunk, drowsy, or distracted driver while on the road in Alabama, seek an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to assist you in making a claim for the money damages you may be owed by contacting the Dothan car accident lawyers at Cobb, Boyd, White & Cobb for a free consultation, at 334-677-1000.