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Final NHTSA data show traffic fatalities up 7.2% in 2015

Final data released by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed traffic deaths rising across nearly every segment of the population in 2015, with a 7.2% increase in deaths from 2014. Total fatalities were 35,092 people; the last single-year increase of this magnitude was in 1966, when fatalities rose 8.1% from the previous year.

The number of passenger car and light-truck occupant fatalities is at its highest since 2009.

  • SUV occupant fatalities increased by 382, an additional 10.1% over the number in 2014.

  • Van occupant fatalities increased by 95, a 9.3% increase.

  • Passenger car occupant fatalities increased by 681, a 5.7% increase.

  • Pickup truck occupant fatalities increased by 200, a 4.7% increase.

  • Motorcyclist fatalities increased by 382 (an 8.3% increase), and the number is the largest since 2012.

  • Pedestrian fatalities increased by 466 (a 9.5% increase), and are at their highest number since 1996.

  • Pedalcyclist fatalities increased by 89 (a 12.2% increase), and are at their highest level since 1995.

  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased by 3.2%, from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015.

  • Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by 3.5% from 2014 to 2015, the largest increase since 1992, nearly 25 years ago.

Ten years ago, the number of traffic deaths was nearly 25% higher, with 42,708 fatalities reported nationwide in 2005. Since then, safety programs have helped lower the number of deaths by increasing seat belt use and reducing impaired driving. Vehicle improvements, including air bags and electronic stability control, have also contributed to reducing traffic fatalities.

In response to the increase, DOT, NHTSA, and the White House are issuing a call to action to involve a wide range of stakeholders in helping determine the causes of the increase. NHTSA will share its Fatality Analysis Reporting System with safety partners, state and local officials, technologists, data scientists, and policy experts. And private sector partners using new data collection technologies will be offering access to unprecedented amounts of data and new visualizations tools.

According to NHTSA, job growth and low fuel prices were two factors that led to increased driving, including increased leisure driving and driving by young people. More driving can contribute to higher fatality rates. In 2015, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased 3.5% over 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years.



I would guess the increase in fatalities is caused by the increased use of smartphones and distracted driving. The only two solutions I can see are mandatory technological measures to prevent a driver's phone from being used in a moving vehicle, or replacing the driver with self-driving or assisting-driving cars.


When fatalities increase twice as fast or as much as miles travelled, it is bad new for road safety in USA.

Impaired, distracted, incompetent and untrained drivers create up to 88% of the fatal accidents.

One way to drastically reduce all those fatal accidents and incidents would be to introduce up-to-date sensors to disable/stop the vehicle when the driver is unfit.

Of course ADVs would avoid many of the fatal accidents and incidents.

Stephen Donaldson

NHTSA needs to be honest about the decrease that occurred after 2007. That decrease was ECONOMIC! Just like the 2015 increase is ECONOMIC!

Just compare 2007 to 2008 the year the recession hit. The deaths dropped from 41,259 to 37,423 DUE TO THE ECONOMY!

That was a close to a 4,000 drop in ONE YEAR because of the start of the RECESSION!


The 2007 was also last time we had a record driving year till 2015.

It is really important to NOT compare 2015 to the recession years as any comparison to 2008 to 2014 numbers SKEW the results due the recession affecting the numbers.
Here are 2006 thur 2014.
2006 US Death rate per mile 1.42 Total Deaths 42,708 Miles Driven 3.014 Trillion (3,014 VMT Billion)
2007 US Death rate per mile 1.36 Total Deaths 41,259 Miles Driven 3.031 Trillion
Recession Begins
2008 US Death rate per mile 1.26 Total deaths 37,423. Miles Driven 2.977 Trillion (2,977 VMT Billion)
Full year of recession
2009 US Death rate per mile 1.15 Total deaths 33,883. Miles Driven 2.957 Trillion
2010 US Death rate per mile 1.11 Total deaths 32,999. Miles Driven 2.967 Trillion
2011 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,479. Miles Driven 2.950 Trillion
2012 US Death rate per mile 1.14 Total deaths 33,782. Miles Driven 2.969 Trillion
2013 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,894. Miles Driven 2,988 Trillion
Starting to leave Recession
2014 US Death rate per mile 1.08 Total deaths 32,675. Miles Driven 3.026 Trillion (3,026 VMT Billion)

The cause is driving miles increasing with more DUI, younger drivers, and more discretionary driving.
Also it is important to mention the DR per mile! It was 1.12 for 2015, lower than 2012 which was 1.14!

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