After Decades of Decrease, Roadway Fatalities Go Up in 2015

Changes to both the law and to safety technology have long brought about increasing safety on American roadways. Beginning in the mid-1960s, annual fatality rates resulting from motor vehicle accidents always decreased from year to year. For the first time in 50 years, fatality rates in 2015 increased by a substantial amount over the previous year’s rates, and experts are without a clear answer as to why this occurred.

The preliminary data, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), shows that fatalities rose in essentially every category of accident. Large truck fatalities rose by 4%, fatal accidents involving pedestrians rose by nearly 10%, cyclist fatalities rose by 12%, and motorcyclist fatalities rose by 8%. Overall, fatalities rose by over 7%, with over 2,300 more deaths and 100,000 more injuries resulting from accidents in 2015 over the total in 2014. While a strengthening economy resulted in a 3.5% increase in vehicle miles traveled in 2015, experts and officials are still investigating the causes of the sharp increase in roadway fatalities.

The NHTSA calculates the rate of fatal accidents that involve distracted drivers based on police reports, which include eyewitness and driver accounts describing what led up to the accident. However, many experts who study traffic safety believe that the reported rate of fatal accidents caused by distracted driving –10% — is a substantial underestimate. To this point, the years-long study of teen driver behavior in the moments leading up to a crash found that 56% of accidents involving the test subject drivers were preceded by some form of distraction pulling the driver’s attention from the road. Additionally, distracted driving is a difficult factor to accurately measure. Drivers are often reluctant to admit to driving while distracted by their phone or something else in their car, and without an eyewitness to the accident who could clearly see what the driver was doing, distractions can be difficult to prove after a crash. While distracted driving may not be as ubiquitous among adult drivers as it is among teens, the aforementioned study and other evidence implies that distractions play a larger role in collisions than statistics reflect.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident in Connecticut, contact the experienced, seasoned, and trial-ready personal injury lawyers at The APEX Law Firm for a consultation, in Hartford County at (860) 900-0900 or through our online contact form.