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U.S. Auto Accident Deaths Are on the Rise

Government Data

Government data released in August of 2016 shows that safety on U.S. roads and highways is suddenly trending in the wrong direction after decades of progress.

According to an August 29 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35,092 people died in auto accidents in the United States in 2015. This figure represents a 7.2% increase over the previous year — 2,348 more deaths, in total — and the largest single-year spike in fatalities since 1966.

The 2015 rise in traffic deaths affected nearly every segment of the population, the NHTSA said in its report, and it reverses a 50-year trend of steady decline in the number of yearly traffic deaths.

State-specific data for North Carolina from the NHTSA report indicates that the state fared about the same as the nation at large last year, experiencing a 7.4% increase in total traffic fatalities in 2015 compared to 2014.

Meanwhile, preliminary 2016 data from the National Safety Council shows that auto accident fatalities rose 9% in the first six months of 2016 year compared to the same period last year — an apparent continuation of last year’s trend.

“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement accompanying the NHTSA report. “Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists, and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies.”

Drunk and Distracted Driving Remain Key Causes of Deadly Auto Accidents

The NHTSA said in its report that job growth and low fuel prices both contributed to increased driving by Americans in 2015, which in turn may have played a role in the increase in total traffic fatalities.

However, the total number of miles that U.S. drivers traveled in motor vehicles rose by only 3.5% in 2015, while the total number of auto accident deaths rose by more than double that percentage. Meanwhile, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities rose in 2015 to their highest level since the 1990s, and motorcyclist deaths increased more than 8%.

The NHTSA said in its report that human factors continue to contribute to the majority of motor vehicle crashes. Almost half of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2015 were not wearing seat belts, researchers said. Furthermore, almost one in three fatal crashes involved drunk drivers, speeding was a factor in approximately 30% of fatal crashes, and about one in 10 involved distracted driving.

“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind in a press release that accompanied the report. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”

RELATED: How Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work In North Carolina

In response to the surge in auto accident fatalities, the NHTSA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and the White House issued an open call to action for public and private institutions as well as interested individuals to delve further into the 2015 data — which the DOT has made available for FTP download to the general public — to look for possible causes and explore potential solutions.

“Data science is a team sport,” said Rosekind and U.S. Office of Science and Technology Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil in a joint statement via the DOT website. “We are calling on data scientists, public health experts, students, and researchers — even if you have never thought about road safety before — to dive in to these data and help answer these important questions, especially on tough issues like pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities.”

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Contact Myers Law Firm If You've Been Injured

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident or other motor vehicle crash, you may be entitled to compensation, and the attorneys at Myers Law Firm are here to help. Every day, we work with people who have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. Whether the other person was driving drunk or using their cell phone, their negligent behavior injures innocent victims. The insurance companies are not on your side, and they enable negligence by delaying compensation, denying claims, and then defending the cases in court.

As a father-and-son legal team with 50 years of combined experience in the Mecklenburg County area, we know the local courts here in Charlotte. When you choose us to represent you, we won’t hesitate to take your case to trial and defend your rights aggressively in court if necessary.

Keep in mind that North Carolina has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, so waiting to contact us could take away your right to file a lawsuit and receive compensation. We provide free initial consultations and work on a contingent-fee basis for personal injury cases, which means you won’t pay any attorney’s fees unless we make a financial recovery on your behalf.

To schedule your free consultation, please call our Charlotte office toll-free at 1-888-376-ATTY (2889) or fill out and submit our online contact form. We’ll follow up and get in touch with you as soon as possible.


Motor vehicle fatalities up 9%; No sign of a decrease in 2016, says National Safety Council. (2016, August 23). National Safety Council. Retrieved from http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=134

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2016, August 29). Traffic fatalities up sharply in 2015 [press release]. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/traffic-fatalities-2015

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. (2016, August). Traffic safety facts: Research note. Washington, DC: NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis. Retrieved from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812318

Patil, DJ, & Rosekind, M. (2016, August 29). 2015 traffic fatalities data has just been released: A call to action to download an analyze. U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/traffic-fatalities-sharply-2015

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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