The White House and U.S. Department of Transportation have issued an “unprecedented” appeal to a wide array of traffic safety and data stakeholders to address a spike in the number of people killed last year in crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that the number of people who died in traffic crashes last year rose for the first time in five years. The 7.2 percent increase from 2014 was the largest of its magnitude since 1966, NHTSA explained.
That year, the number of crash fatalities increased by 8.1 percent.
Still, NHTSA pointed out that the number of national traffic fatalities was about 25 percent higher a decade ago, when 42,708 were reported in 2005. But more work must be done, commented U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“Despite decades of safety improvements, far too many people are killed on our nation’s roads every year,” he said in a statement. “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.”
As a result, the federal government issued its “call to action” to state and local officials, technology experts, scientists and policy experts to analyze the latest crash data, and it is reaching out to the private sector to use new data collection technologies to access “unprecedented amounts of data and new visualization tools.”
The report did not cite the number of fatalities linked to school bus or student transportation travel, but it did reveal that the proportion of fatalities occurring inside vehicles, which included “bus” along with passenger cars, light trucks, large trucks and “other,” declined from a high of 80 percent from 1996 through 2000 to 68 percent from 2012 through 2015.
But NHTSA also said the proportion of fatalities occurring outside the vehicle increased from a low of 20 percent from 1996 to 2000, to a high of 32 percent from 2012 to 2015. Last year alone, pedestrian fatalities increased by 9.5 percent and pedalcyclist fatalities growing by 12.2 percent, combining for “a level not seen in 20 years.”
The data also shows that nearly half of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA said research shows a third of all fatalities involved drunk drivers or speeding. Meanwhile, one in 10 fatalities involved distraction.
“The data tell us that people die when they drive drunk, distracted, or drowsy, or if they are speeding or unbuckled,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”