In 2016, a total of 37,461 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S., according to the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's an increase of 5.6 percent compared to the year 2015.
You may ask, weren't more people driving more miles last year? Yes. The NHTSA says vehicle miles driven on U.S. roads rose 2.2 percent compared to 2015. But there was still an increase in death rate given the extra miles traveled: the fatality rate in 2016 rose to 1.18 deaths per 100 million vehicle-miles-traveled, which is an increase of 2.6 percent from 2015.
What Do the Statistics Mean?
Long story short, auto accident fatalities continue to rise in our country. There are a variety of reasons, all of which agencies like the NHTSA and others work to better understand. What we do know is that the majority of auto accidents – fatal and non-fatal – are preventable. They are usually caused by an error or misjudgment on the part of the motorists involved. To a lesser extent, accidents can be caused by defective vehicles, dangerous roads and hazardous conditions, which can be beyond our control.
Below, we take a closer look at the leading causes of deadly accidents in 2016.
Common Causes of Accident Deaths Last Year
The NHTSA identified the leading causes of fatal crashes, and whether these causes were on the rise or decline last year.
Distracted driving – decreased. Deaths linked to distraction fell by 2.2 percent last year. In total, 3,450 people lost their lives in traffic accidents that involved distracted driving, such as texting or talking on a phone.
Drowsy driving – decreased. Driving while you are tired is very dangerous. It not only affects your ability to stay awake, but also to react and make judgments quickly. It also slows coordination. Deaths linked to drowsy driving accidents fell by 3.5 percent, according to the NHTSA, adding up to a total of 803 people.
Speeding – increased. Speeding remains a persistent cause of death. Exceeding the speed limit makes it more difficult to control your vehicle. It increases the amount of time it takes to slow down, and leaves you less room for error if an unexpected situation arises on the road. Speeding also makes an impact/collision more catastrophic than if the same crash occurred at slower speeds. Unfortunately, the NHTSA found fatalities linked to speeding rose 4 percent last year, killing 10,111 people.
Drunk driving – increased. At this point, we all know the dangers of drunk driving. There's no excuse to get behind the wheel while inebriated. But it happens all the time. In fact, drunk driving caused the highest number of accident fatalities compared to all other causes in 2015: 10,497 people were killed, which is an increase of 1.7 percent from 2015.
Failure to wear seat belts – increased. Seat belts are an essential safety device. Research shows wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death and catastrophic injury in the event of a crash. You should demand everyone in your vehicle buckles up before you begin driving. Doing so could save a life. In 2015, 10,428 people who were unbelted at the time of crash were killed, an increase of 4.6 percent.
Motorcyclist and Pedestrian Deaths
Fatalities among motorcyclists and pedestrians made up more than a third of the 2016 increase:
- 5,286 motorcyclists were killed in 2016, which was an increase of 5.1 percent and the greatest number of such deaths since 2008
- 5,987 pedestrians were killed last year, the highest number since 1990 and an increase of 9 percent from 2015
- 840 bicyclists were killed, the highest number since 1991 and an increase of 1.3 percent from 2015
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians are highly vulnerable when a crash occurs involving a motor vehicle. These types of transportation offer no protection. The larger size and weight of a vehicle can easily cause catastrophic injuries and death.
Your Consultation with Attorney Chris Jeffress
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident in Boulder, Longmont, Broomfield or any of the surrounding areas, please call Jeffress Law, PC, at 303-993-8685. We offer a FREE case evaluation. We'll let you know about what steps you can take now to pursue maximum compensation for your injuries.