US traffic deaths on highest level in 7 years image

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said traffic fatalities rose last year at levels not seen since 2008, increasing 7.7 percent.

Preliminary data on US crash fatalities gathered by the NHTSA from several sources, such as police reports, shows that an estimated 35,200 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, an increase of 7.7 percent compared to the 32,675 fatalities that were reported in 2014. If this is confirmed, fatalities will be at their highest level since 2008.

The agency’s estimates indicate that in 9 out of 10 regions in the US traffic deaths increased in 2015 – with up to 20 percent in states such as Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska -, with pedestrians and bicyclists being the most vulnerable, among which numbers jumped by 10 and 13 percent, respectively. Fatalities to drivers and passengers have also gone up by 6 and 7 percent. Such alarming levels must by linked to some extent to the fact that American motorists traveled around 107.2 billion miles in 2015, 3.5 percent more than a year earlier.

“As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said “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.”

The US auto safety regulators announced in March that 20 automakers have agreed to introduce automatic emergency braking as a standard equipment by 2022.

NHTSA also pointed out that the July 4 holiday is historically one of the deadliest days on US roadways, a statement backup by a report released last week by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.