Preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a 7.7 per cent increase in motor vehicle traffic deaths in 2015. An estimated 35,200 people died in 2015, up from the 32,675 reported fatalities in 2014.
“Every American should be able to drive, ride or walk to their destination safely, every time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
Although the data is preliminary and requires additional analysis, the early NHTSA estimate showed nine out of 10 regions within the United States had increased traffic deaths in 2015. The most significant increases came for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. 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 response to early estimates showing fatality increases, the agency convened a series of six regional safety summits with key stakeholders throughout February and March. As a result of those summits, the agency is working to develop new tools that could improve behavioral challenges including drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving; speeding; failure to use safety features such as seat belts and child seats; and new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
In addition, when the final dataset is released later this summer, DOT and NHTSA will issue a call to action to safety partners, state and local elected officials, technologists, data scientists and policy experts to join the Department in searching for more definitive answers and developing creative, open data-driven solutions to improve safety and reduce deaths caused by motor vehicles.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is also pressing forward with new guidance to promote the development of automated safety technologies which could greatly decrease the number of crashes.