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U.S. Traffic Fatalities Continue to Rise, Even Though Distracted-Related Deaths Down

There were more U.S. traffic deaths in 2016 than in 2015, marking the second year in a row that the numbers have gone in the wrong direction.

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There were more U.S. traffic deaths in 2016 than in 2015, marking the second year in a row that the numbers have gone in the wrong direction.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,641 people died on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from 2015.

In 2015, traffic deaths were up 8.4 percent, the largest year-over-year increase since 1964.

While conventional wisdom might point to distracted driving as the culprit, the numbers suggest otherwise. Distraction-related traffic deaths declined 2.2 percent in 2016, according to NHTSA, and drowsy-driving deaths were down 3.5 percent.

However, drunk-driving deaths were up 1.7 percent, accounting for 10,497 traffic fatalities, and speeding-related deaths were up 4 percent, accounting for 10,111 fatalities.

Traffic deaths involving unbelted drivers increased 4.6 percent, to 10,428 fatalities.

There are a few other troubling data points:

  • Motorcyclist deaths increased 5.1 percent. There were 5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008.
  • Pedestrian deaths increased 9 percent. There were 5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990.
  • Bicyclist deaths increased 1.3 percent. There were 840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991.

“NHTSA continues to work closely with its state and local partners, law enforcement agencies, and the more than 350 members of the Road to Zero Coalition to help address the human choices that are linked to 94 percent of serious crashes,” the agency said. “NHTSA also continues to promote vehicle technologies that hold the potential to reduce the number of crashes and save thousands of lives every year, and may eventually help reduce or eliminate human error and the mistakes that drivers make behind the wheel.”

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