Deadly driving behavior fluctuates


The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released estimates of 2015 fatality rates that show a disturbing reversal of earlier trends that showed a decrease in accident deaths. It also cited dangerous driving behaviors that continued in 2014.

The NHTSA's Fatal Analysis Reporting System show that 32,675 people were killed in automobile accidents in 2014, which was a 0.1 percent decrease from one year earlier. The fatality rate fell to a record low of 1.07 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

However, the NHTSA's estimates for the first six months of 2015 revealed an 8.1 increase for the same period from 2014. The fatality rate also climbed by 4.4 percent. The agency, while warning that partial-year estimates are more volatile and subject to revision, expressed concern about the reversal of the downward trend and called for action.

While overall road fatalities declined slightly in 2014, the NHTSA claimed that year was the safest year for vehicle occupants since data was first collected in 1975 in that 21,022 people died in vehicle crashes. Human conduct or a negligent driver, however, was a critical factor in 94 percent of accidents.

For example, a drunk driver played a role in one-third of traffic deaths, or 9,967 fatalities in 2014. Distracted driving was blamed for 10 percent of deaths, or 3,179 fatalities that year. Driving while drowsy also accounted for 2.6 percent of traffic fatalities, or 846 deaths. Failure to wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets were also contributing factors.

The 2015 increase was attributed, in part, to job growth and lower fuel prices that led to more driving. This included an increase in leisure driving and driving by younger motorists, which plays a role in traffic death rates.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said that it is important to reinvigorate efforts to combat impaired driving, driving distractions and other dangerous behaviors. The NHTSA also commenced efforts to speed up safety technology and combat drowsy driving. The NHTSA's figures show that motorists and passengers in Connecticut still face risks of car accidents caused by a negligent, impaired or distracted driver.

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, "Traffic fatalities fall in 2014 but early estimates show 2015 trending higher," Accessed Dec. 7, 2015

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