Reckless Behaviors Push Up Traffic Fatalities

Research by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) shows that 37,461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016, a 5.6 percent rise from 35,485 in 2015.

Data for the report was derived from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a census of fatal crashes in the United States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which is not included in U.S. totals.

While there has been a downward progression of fatal accidents in the past ten years, traffic deaths rose in 2012 as well as 2015 and 2016.

Reckless behaviors caused the majority of fatal accidents, with speeding, alcohol, and lack of seat belt use increasing in 2016. However, distracted driving and drowsy driving deaths declined.

Motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths accounted for more than a third of the year-over-year increase, with NHTSA reporting the largest number of motorcycle fatalities since 2008. The data showed 5,286 deaths, a 5.1 percent rise.

Other data in the report showed that:

  • Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased 2.2 percent;
  • Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased 3.5 percent;
  • Alcohol-related deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased 1.7 percent;
  • Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased 4.0 percent;
  • Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased 4.6 percent
  • Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased 9.0 percent and
  • Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased 1.3 percent.

In 2016, every month saw a year-over-year increase except for January, August, and December. The highest fatality increase was in February at 22.7 percent, according to the NHTSA.

The report also shows that in 2015 to 2016 the 16-to-24 age group had a 4.0-percent increase, while the 65+ age group had an 8.2-percent increase.