Traffic deaths across the nation jumped 7.7 percent in 2015 to 35,200 — the highest number of traffic deaths since 2008 and the first increase since 2012, according to a July 1 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Notably, the NHTSA report also revealed a 13 percent surge in traffic deaths for bicyclists, and a 10 percent increase for pedestrians struck by vehicles.
Meanwhile, it was also recently reported that Michigan traffic deaths are up by 42, compared to this time last year.
Nine of the 10 regions in the NHTSA study reported increases in traffic deaths last year. In the Midwest region, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, traffic deaths increased 9 percent in 2015. This falls in line with a recent report from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, showing that traffic deaths in Michigan jumped 10 percent in 2015.
According to the NHTSA, the spike in traffic deaths relates to more Americans driving on the roads and, at the same time, making poor decisions behind the wheel, including drunken, drugged and distracted driving.
“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” said NHTSA Administrator 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.”
In particular, the NHTSA report showed a 10 percent surge in traffic deaths for drivers between the ages of 15 and 20. The main reason for this increase is that more young drivers are being distracted. In fact, a recent National Safety Council study showed the percentage of drivers manipulating hand-held devices while operating a vehicle increased from 0.9 percent in 2010 to 2.2 percent in 2014. This number was higher for drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, with the NSC study showing that 4.8 percent of young drivers use hand-held devices while operating a vehicle.
The NHTSA is currently focusing on ways to reduce the behaviors that lead to traffic fatalities, including drunken, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding and not using seat belts and child seats. When presented with the NHTSA’s recent findings, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said:
“Every American should be able to drive, ride or walk to their destination safely, every time. We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior, and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.”