AASHTO Journal, 15 July 2016
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said its preliminary data for 2015 show that motor vehicle traffic deaths increased 7.7 percent from 2014, resulting in an estimated 35,200 deaths last year.
“Every American should be able to drive, ride or walk to their destination safely, every time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are analyzing the data to determine what factors contributed to the increase in fatalities and at the same time, we are aggressively testing new safety technologies, new ways to improve driver behavior and new ways to analyze the data we have, as we work with the entire road safety community to take this challenge head-on.”
NHTSA said although the data are preliminary and requires additional analysis, its early estimate showed nine out of 10 U.S. regions had more traffic deaths in 2015 and that “the most significant increases came for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said: “As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles. But that only explains part of the increase.”
He added that 94 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.”
As it saw the fatality rates rise, the agency convened a series of six regional safety summits with stakeholder groups in February and March. As a result of those meetings, NHTSA said it is “working to develop new tools that could improve behavioral challenges including drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving; speeding; failure to use safety features such as seat belts and child seats; and new initiatives to protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.”
It also said that when the final 2015 data is released later this summer, the USDOT and NHTSA “will issue a call to action to safety partners, state and local elected officials, technologists, data scientists and policy experts” to help find “creative, open data-driven solutions to improve safety and reduce deaths caused by motor vehicles.”
The USDOT is also pressing efforts to develop automated safety technologies that it said “could greatly decrease the number of crashes.” And along with the Federal Highway Administration NHTSA said it is helping implement new safety performance measures that require states and metropolitan areas to set targets for reducing deaths among both motorized and non-motorized road users.
In March, the USDOT announced a key safety agreement with automakers requiring more than 99 percent of new vehicles to have automatic emergency braking standard by 2022. It is also working to require vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems on new models, which it said could help drivers avoid or mitigate 70 to 80 percent of vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers.