Fleet Management

Highway Deaths Climbed 7.2% in 2015; Those Involving Large Trucks Rose 4.1%

August 30, 2016

By David Cullen

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe
Image: FMCSA
Image: FMCSA

Traffic crashes took the lives of 35,092 persons in 2015, according to final data released Aug 29 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That 7.2% increase in highway fatalities from 2014 marks the end of a nearly 50-year trend toward declining fatalities. The largest percentage increase previously was the 8.1-percent rise recorded from 1965 to 1966.

The number of deaths attributed specifically to crashes involving large trucks jumped 4.1%, marking the highest increase in this statistic since 2008. Of the 4,067 large-truck fatalities, 16.4% were occupants of large trucks, 10.1% were non-occupants, and 73.5% were occupants of other vehicles.

The 2015 data also showed that the estimated number of people injured on the roads increased as well, from 2.34 to 2.44 million people, as did the number of police-reported crashes, from 6.0 to 6.3 million.

NHTSA said that traffic deaths increased across nearly every segment of the population, including passenger vehicle occupants, passengers of large trucks, pedestrians and motorcyclists. Also up were alcohol-impaired driving fatalities. Fatalities of drivers of large trucks was one of the few groups that remained unchanged.

Per NHTSA, the number of traffic deaths was nearly 25% higher ten years ago, with 42,708 fatalities reported in 2005. “Since then,” the agency stated, “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.”

However, NHTSA also pointed out that recently “job growth and low fuel prices… have 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.”

Given the sharp reversal 2015 marks in what had been a long-running positive trend, NHTSA, the Department of Transportation and the White House have jointly announced a “call to action” aimed at involving a range of stakeholders to help determine why highway deaths have increased.

For its part, NHTSA said it will share its Fatality Analysis Reporting System with safety partners, state and local officials, policy experts and others. The agency also said that “private sector partners using new data collection technologies will be offering access to unprecedented amounts of data and new visualizations tools.”

"The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled," said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. "While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities."

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said that "solving this problem will take teamwork, so we're issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.” 


  1. 1. Pops [ August 31, 2016 @ 04:32AM ]

    Lowering the speed of commerical vehicles without lowering the speed of passenger vehicles is not the answer. All the aforementioned will do is cause more interaction between an greater number of vehicles.

  2. 2. Shawn [ August 31, 2016 @ 05:06AM ]

    Allow me to make an summation: This report is not surprising in the least! In the last 18 months the number of foreign drivers has increased tremendously. I'm sorry to assert this, however, individuals drive completely different in other countries then we do in the U.S. This has significantly increased traffic crashes and, as many of you have seen, this doesn't take into account "near misses." Every day our fleet is seeing several near misses committed by, almost exclusively, drivers who appear to be not of U.S. origin. Sure, we will hear from the statisticians who will assert lower fuel prices, more commercial traffic, etc., that is contributing to this increase; however, I ask you to simply recall in your mind the last 18 months and count the crashes you have witnessed and the near misses you have witnessed. How many times has he "fault" driver been someone who appears to have recently moved to the U.S. from another country, where driving practices are completely different than U.S. driving norms? This is a sad reality from my observation and the situation will continue to worsen unless the tremendous amount of new american drivers somehow acclimate to U.S. driving practices. Case-in-point: three months ago I had an individual apply of a driving job in my office. I give a 20 question traffic signage identification test (pictures of road signs) in my pre-employment assessment. This individual arrived in the U.S. (legally) 3 years ago, possessed a verified CDL-A (XT), License for 2 1/2 years with no breaks in employment. He scored 3 correct out of the 20! Be careful out there & report any suspicious activity. One last thing: it is time for our Motor Carrier Officers to start pulling the trucks with these drivers "around back" for full hour long inspections instead of waiving them through while "around back" is overflowing with trucks driven by Million Mile Plus Drivers who were born in the U.S.

  3. 3. Stephen [ August 31, 2016 @ 06:55AM ]

    This "the world is ending" nonsense by the 'safety" advocates without mention that the decrease that occurred after 2007.was ECONOMIC! Needs to stop. 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!

    That was a RECESSION DROP!


    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!

  4. 4. John [ August 31, 2016 @ 08:43AM ]

    I'm surprised the study didn't comment on the increased number of distracted drivers due to texting and/or watching youtube while driving. I'm amazed at how many times I see automobile drivers swerving or sitting stopped at a green light because they are not paying attention, only to see that they are doing something on their phone. This may be an issue with some truck drivers also, but these distracted automobile drivers can and do cause truck accidents. In my opinion, they are as dangerous and more prevalent than drunk drivers.

  5. 5. Justin [ September 03, 2016 @ 06:21AM ]

    Statistics mean bupkiss!
    Any statistic can be contorted and skeewed to reflect the outcome desired by the individual or agency that produced such.
    Noone has considered how the economy,aging motorist population,distracted driving,and a very visible lack of personal responsibility has affected the modern driving environment.


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All