The latest traffic crash data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in calendar year 2016 – marking a significant increase of 5.6% over the same period in 2015.
NHTSA also found that the number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads increased by 2.2% last year. That resulted in a fatality rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT – equating to 2.6% increase from the previous year.
As to fatalities resulting from crashes involving large trucks, the agency recorded a 5.4% jump in those over 2015, the highest since 2007. Of those 4,317 fatalities, 16.7% (722 persons) were occupants of large trucks, 10.8% were “non-occupants,” and 72.4% were occupants of other vehicles.
Another key finding was a drop in overall fatalities tied to distracted and drowsy driving. Distraction-related deaths fell 2.2% (3,450 fatalities) and drowsy-driving deaths dropped 3.5% (803 fatalities).
On the other hand, deaths related to “other reckless behaviors – including speeding, alcohol impairment, and not wearing seat belts – continued to increase.”
Also of interest: Motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths together accounted for more than a third of the year-to-year increase in total highway fatalities.
Here are the categories that saw increases in the rate of fatalities for 2016:
- Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased 1.7%
- Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased 4.0%
- Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6%
- Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased 5.1%
- Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased by 9.0%
- Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased 1.3%
NHTSA stated that some 94% of serious crashes involve drivers who make “poor choices.”
The agency noted in a statement that it will continue 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.”