NHTSA Reports Uptick in Traffic Accident Deaths
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NHTSA Reports Uptick in Traffic Accident Deaths

Cars-accidentTraffic fatalities in 2015 were at the highest level since 2008, according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The increase can be attributed at least in part to more miles on the road during that year, which could be due to a combination of an improved economy, higher employment rates and lower gas prices. However, statistics also show that failure to wear a seatbelt, driving under the influence and distracted driving also played a role.

The NHTSA reported that as many as 35,092 people in the U.S. lost their lives in traffic accidents during 2015 alone. That number marked a 7.2 percent increase over the number of traffic fatalities in 2014. The last time traffic fatalities saw such a significant one-year increase in this country was 1966, when there was an 8.1 percent increase in fatalities.

Breakdown of numbers

The biggest increases occurred among bicyclists (13%), pedestrians (10%) and motorcyclists (9%). Fatalities to drivers also increase by six percent, while passenger fatalities increased by seven percent. Fatalities in crashes involving young drivers increased by 10 percent. Rollover accident fatalities also rose by five percent, while fatalities in accidents involving big trucks increased by four percent.

The NHTSA also noted in their recent study that a large percentage of traffic fatalities in 2015 could be attributed to human error. In fact, nearly half the fatalities that occurred involved drivers or passengers that were not wearing a seatbelt. Additional research has shown that as many as one-third of all traffic fatalities involve driving under the influence or speeding. Ten percent involve distracted driving, which might include use of a mobile device while behind the wheel.

“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” Dr. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, stated on the organization’s website. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”

Cost of traffic fatalities

While fatalities increased in most states across the nation, a few states actually saw a decline in fatality rates, according to the National Safety Council. Those states, which include New Mexico, Alaska and Rhode Island, might seem to support the theory that higher employment rates lead to higher fatality rates, since both New Mexico and Alaska have seen higher unemployment rates than much of the rest of the country. However, Rhode Island saw both an increase in employment and an increase in traffic related deaths, which runs contrary to this theory.

The NSC estimates that the costs involved with traffic fatalities were also significant in 2015. During that year, total costs of motor vehicle-related deaths totaled around $412.1 billion, which included lost wages and productivity, medical expenses, employer and insurance expenses and property damage. Those numbers cannot be compared to previous years, since the NSC changed their methods of categorization and calculation methods when compiling data for 2015.

Legal help after a car accident

When you are involved in a serious traffic accident, or you lose a loved one to a negligent driver, roadway statistics mean very little. All you know is that your life has changed in a split-second, and you’re left to pick up the pieces.

The Sanders Firm offers expert legal guidance to car accident victims in New York City and Long Island. We work diligently to maximize the value of your claim and ensure justice is served. To arrange a free case evaluation with a trusted New York car accident attorney, we invite you to call our offices at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY.


  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Fatalities in 2015, https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812269

  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Fatalities Up Sharply in 2015, http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/traffic-fatalities-2015

  3. Newsweek, 2015 Brought Biggest Percent Increase in U.S. Traffic Deaths in 50 Years, http://www.newsweek.com/2015-brought-biggest-us-traffic-death-increase-50-years-427759

  4. CNN Money, Traffic Deaths Jump by 14 Percent in 2015, http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/17/autos/traffic-fatalities-up-2015/