By on August 30, 2016

traffic highway (Bryce Watanabe/Flickr)

Traffic deaths skyrocketed last year by the largest amount since 1966, erasing safety gains made in recent years.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released raw 2015 data yesterday, revealing that 35,092 people died on U.S. roads — a 7.2 percent spike in fatalities compared to the previous year. The data shows the deaths weren’t confined to any particular demographic.

As bad as it sounds, the increase is less than the NHTSA’s July estimate of a 7.7-percent gain.

Vehicles are safer today than even a decade ago, when traffic deaths were 25-percent higher, but a range of factors cancelled out the extra airbags and driving aids offered up by automakers.

The NHTSA blames low fuel prices, job growth, increased leisure driving, and increased youth driving for the increase in vehicles on the road. Vehicle miles traveled rose by 3.5 percent in 2015, the largest increase in a quarter century. And more vehicles boost the odds that some of them will crash.

Data shows that old habits die hard — in this case, literally. Lawmakers have made gains in reducing impaired driving, but a third of last year’s crashes can be blamed on drunk driving and simple speeding. About half of the vehicle occupants killed weren’t wearing a seatbelt. One in ten deaths involved distracted driving.

The jump in fatalities occurred outside of vehicles, too. Motorcycle deaths rose 8 percent, while deaths of pedestrians and cyclists rose 20 percent compared to the year before.

Not surprisingly, the federal government wants to bring those numbers down. The Department of Transportation, along with the NHTSA and the White House released a call to action in the wake of the findings. The government wants experts, scientists and safety groups to propose “novel solutions to old challenges.”

“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 in a release. “While there have been enormous improvements in many of these areas, we need to find new solutions to end traffic fatalities.”

At the very least, expect new campaigns against drunk, distracted and reckless driving in the short-term.

[Image: Bryce Watanabe/Flickr]

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175 Comments on “2015 Traffic Death Spike is the Highest in 50 Years...”


  • avatar
    VoGo

    There’s an interesting article over at Bloomberg showing a correlation between low unemployment and high traffic fatalities. Apparently, as employment levels rise, really lousy drivers get hired, drive more, and cause accidents.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This is one of those times where I read something like “About half of the vehicle occupants killed weren’t wearing a seatbelt.”

    And I just think “Serves you right.”

    We still need natural selection, since we don’t have real predators like other animals.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      My 16 year old cousin died in 2015. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was driving dangerously.

      Although her actions were stupid, she wasnt an idiot, just an immature kid. I don’t think she got what she deserved, but it is what it is. If she hadn’t been so careless, well, you know.

      But, who among us, as a teenager, didn’t make awful mistakes that could have lead to death? Who didn’t push mom’s family sedan/minivan to limits a Camaro rarely sees?

      Its easy to say that someone who doesn’t wear a seat belt deserves what they get, but it’s a little harder when you look at it in the context of the person being young, immature and/or mostly ignorant of potential consequences.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I don’t think “they were young” should be used as an excuse like it often is. I was young, enjoyed cars, and never did any of that stupid crap – because I had an understanding of mortality and injury. Not once was I in a life-threatening situation.

        Drive unbuckled, drive dangerously, drive under influence – it’s like playing with a loaded gun. Some kids are gonna do it secretly and live to tell the story later, others not so much.

        • 0 avatar

          I did dumb life threatening stuff all the time as a kid. I’m not sure hoe you avoid and still live like a teenager. Thou I did more dumb stuff in my early 20’s then I ever did as a teen. (not DWI) but lots of other stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          Nick_515

          Corey, I find you statement absolutely indefensible. You also seem to have a really poor understanding of “natural selection.”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Care to elaborate?

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            CoreyDL: you may “understand” why a drunk or reckless driver dies, but “serves them right” amounts to justifying what happened to them as a due punishment. As such, I find that statement indefensible. Even at the individual level, let alone if we start really understanding the propensity of young people to take more risk. The fact that you were a particularly cautious young driver tells us nearly nothing about human behavior generally.

            Natural selection can be used as a (bad) metaphor, but is actually a biological process that does not really apply to this situation.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Seems the implication there is there shouldn’t be/aren’t any consequences for reckless behavior? That what you’re saying? There’s a reason it’s called recklessness and taking risks. Those people are making things more dangerous than they need to be, and may suffer those consequences. There’s always a base line danger when traveling in a car, yes – but adding to it for no reason other than “youthful stupidity” is the human and first world equivalent of natural selection.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Only sort of religious statement that ever resonated with me is “If a Jew be a drunkard, let him die.”

            I have no idea if that’s legit Jewishness but I completely agree with it and with Corey.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            CoreyDl: There is no reply underneath your comment, so I am replying to mine.

            No, I am not advocating for excusing drunk or reckless driving. I am saying that being apprehended and fined by the police “serves them right.” Dying “serves them wrong.” Death is a tragic occurrence. Whether it is understandable or senseless, it is tragic. This is the reason why your statement remains indefensible.

            This is not really the place to explain natural selection, but you continue to exhibit a very poor understanding of it. No, this is not an “equivalent to natural selection” in no way shape or form. That’s okay. I know what you mean.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Seems like if I had applied more soppy emotional words, you’d be agreeing with me. I was making a factual argument, not an emotional one – as I mentioned previously, I know it upsets some people. Whether it was “tragic” or not did not factor into my argument.

            Who are you to decide what’s fair or not fair for all humans? See the slippery slope there? I wasn’t making a decision in my argument, as nature had done that already (a fact).

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            “Serves them right” is a judgmental argument, not factual. You have presented no facts to determine a just punishment, just your opinion. And I respectfully wanted to disagree with your opinion publicly.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Okies, I’ll revise the wording.

            Substitute: “That’s what happens.”

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “F**k ’em” generally doesn’t make for good public policy.

            Seat belt usage rates in the US are below those of other western countries, and the fatality rate could be reduced substantially simply by increasing the usage rate.

            It might behoove us to figure out why Americans are less inclined to buckle up and if there is a way to change that.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Nick_515, have you ever heard the phrase “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”? How about the Darwin Award? Drunk drivers and the like put themselves and the public at risk. If they manage to only hurt/kill themselves so be it. Death is not very tragic when it is the result of someone’s own stupid choices.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “Death is not very tragic when it is the result of someone’s own stupid choices.”

            Someone else gets it. I could hug you!

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            Much better Corey!

            sportyaccordy: okay, that’s different. yes, reckless driving also endangers other people. are you still ready to say that it deserves death? and despite the fact that you may personally feel that way, can you point to actual data that shows death to work well as a preventative measure of further reckless behavior?

          • 0 avatar

            Corey,

            We all have different genetics. Some of us have caution genes. They run in my family. Others have a genetic propensity to take more risks. There are evolutionary reasons for these kinds of differences. Both kinds of people–at different times and in different ways–could help a small band of hunter-gatherers survive.

            And people whose brains have not completely matured–definitely those under 20–are more likely to take risks.

            There is also a learning curve when learning to drive. It’s normal for people who have been driving only a short time to screw up.

            It would help if society had penalties for reckless driving that were enough to scare kids without caution genes into being more careful than they are naturally. Or to scare kids into not texting while driving.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I certainly agree with said penalties. Determining what those are – at a level high enough to discourage the risk behavior – is an interesting conversation and regulatory challenge.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “can you point to actual data that shows death to work well as a preventative measure of further reckless behavior?”

            100% of dead people have never committed any further reckless behavior. :)

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Increased penalties don’t serve as a deterrent. There’s nothing to study; we already know this.

            What can serve as a deterrent is increasing the risk of getting caught. But traffic enforcement is a cat-and-mouse game that catches only a tiny percentage of violators, so that kind of deterrent effect is impossible to implement outside of a police state.

            Most of what many of you believe about topics like this has already been studied and refuted.

          • 0 avatar
            e30gator

            Nick, you’ve been wasting your time with this guy. Given his past comments on this site, his ignorance, and your inability to appeal to him using logic and rational thought is utterly predictable. Some people will see a dog, hear it bark and still argue that it’s a cat.

            I know it’s satire, but if you want a complete picture of who you’re dealing with, see below…

            http://www.theonion.com/article/diehard-trump-voters-confirm-rest-nation-should-st-53585

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Your characterization of me is rather poor, and you’d do well to maintain respectful discussion without personal attacks – like everyone else managed aside from you. Further, politics has nothing do with it. Clean up your act.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          Did you ever get a visit from one Charles Xavier and/or Erik Lensherr?

          Okay that was mean but I think its safe to say you were probably an outlier since most young people are really bad at analyzing risks and haven’t fully developed an understanding of morality and injury (seems to me most kids think along the lines of Uncle Rico and how good his throwing are was when it comes to immortality and imperviousness).

          Hell up until about 11 months ago I never knew how bad a head on collision could be and I haven’t lead some charmed life when it comes to abusing my body.

          I didn’t suffer greatly, just a coupla dislocated ribs and a vertebrae plus being sore as hell for about three weeks but the experience was enough that I tend to get tense when I’m in a crowd of cars and I’m trying to figure out who is going to do what and when.

          Never used to get tense like that but the previous experience with the collision certainly changed things.

      • 0 avatar

        Sorry you lost your cousin. When I think back to the crap I did as a novice driver, it must have be divine intervention on my behalf. It’s boggling that I survived.

        Despite my good fortune, I don’t seem to be able to win the lottery.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        John,
        It’s always sad when a young person commits a “brave” feat and fails.

        What this does show is maybe the age should be lifted to take into account this immaturity. I know some will say it will impinge on those who do the correct thing. But, we must use data, to assess the risk or likelihood of an incident occurring.

        The only other options is to look at countries that have programs and licencing regulations that protect the young.

        • 0 avatar
          raph

          IMO the legal driving age should be at least 18 in the states and include substantial instruction but the latter will never happen. Most if not all schools have dropped driver’s education and even when it was a 9 week course during my time in school the on-road portion of the driver’s ed program was woefully short and out-dated.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        “Seat belt usage rates in the US are below those of other western countries, and the fatality rate could be reduced substantially simply by increasing the usage rate.

        It might behoove us to figure out why Americans are less inclined to buckle up and if there is a way to change that”

        First use of seat belts as an official safety device, was in Melbourne, Australia. Many thought they were a dumb idea, but the Victorian Government imposed heavy fines on non wearers. After a period of time, fatalities from road accidents dropped dramatically in the State. Rest of Australia, started doing the same and fatalities dropped like a stone. Only way people wore them , was do to the threat of penalties. To appeal to commonsense does not work, especially on the young drivers, and .very especially on young male drivers

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      A bit harsh, Corey…people make mistakes. You or I could easily die tomorrow from some stupid goof behind the wheel, and not buckling up is just one of many such stupid goofs possible. Just sayin’.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ironically, he does work in insurance. Whats the over under on your death on the roadway tomorrow Corey?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          “and not buckling up is just one of many such stupid goofs possible”

          That’s exactly right.

          The clumsy mountain goat slips up and falls to his death – doesn’t reproduce.

          The human intentionally avoids applying safety device, is killed in crash – doesn’t reproduce.

          The effect is the same, people just don’t like hearing it because of human cuddles.

          RE: Road death. Mortality tables suggest I’m much less likely to die as a male of super preferred underwriting class, since I’m past age 26. That’s the age accepted by the insurance industry where “youthful recklessness” factor fades out. That phase of natural selection has passed.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            That just makes us human, Corey.

            I see your point, but methinks you’re being a bit harsh. As I get older I tend to judge less. Why? Because I inevitably end up making the same mistakes I’ve been judgmental about other people making. Live long enough and you’ll find any number of new and creative ways to screw up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It only sounds so harsh because I’m being intentionally blunt about it. If I used more emotional words, and some faux sadness at the state of young human drivers my point would be much more appealing.

            Living organisms (of all kinds) die when they f*ck up and nature brings the hammer down.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “That just makes us human, Corey.”

            So does stink. The idea is to do something to improve our lot.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “Living organisms (of all kinds) die when they f*ck up and nature brings the hammer down.”

            Please explain about 2004 to present.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Right, but smart people screw the pooch too, so the whole natural selection thing doesn’t work all of the time.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Nope it certainly does not apply accurately 100% of the time. Sometimes the strongest lion falls in the water and a crocodile gets it.

            But overall, I think it averages out as a positive in nature.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            No comprendo! What do you mean?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            For that be there land yacht, jwarr.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Hell, I’m as good a driver as anyone and I augered in once fiddling with the radio. Shit happens. Granted, not buckling up is dumb, but there’s a whole range of dumb mistakes you can make on the road. None of us are infallible. I try not to judge.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        I believe my wife and I came very close to death earlier this year because of a dangerous driver. We were on a 2-lane highway in my 94 Silverado running at the 55 mph speed limit. The cruise was set and we were both wearing seat belts.

        I noticed at Ranger pickup coming towards us at about the speed limit when it began to drift over the line. I watched closely hoping the driver would correct but he just kept coming. At this point he was coming at me head on. At the last few seconds, I cut hard to the right, jumped a ditch and landed in someones front yard. At this point I got on the brakes and was able to stop. The only thing I hit was a telephone junction box.

        The other driver continued on his path, left the road and went into some woods. As I ran toward his vehicle, he came crawling out. He was an older man and was not badly injured. The first thing he said to me was “I fell asleep. I shouldn’t even be driving, I have a sleep disorder”.

      • 0 avatar
        DukeGanote

        It’s why we call him Judge Corey N. Executioner.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      . . .Wow. Callous on a level I’m not sure is a justified view. How many are kids who fidget and don’t remain in the belt? How many are people who unbelted to grab something and got rear-ended? How many are just having a momentary lapse in judgment, went a block and got killed?

      Whatever way you feel is acceptable if morally reprehensible but do you need to publicly share it?

  • avatar
    JMII

    I blame Telsa! …just kidding.

    Its the drunk driving that pisses me off the most because its entirely preventable.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    How about requiring breath interlocks as standard equipment?

    Didn’t think so. Culturally, it’s more acceptable to drive impaired than to surrender the keys to a sober driver. I’ll have my wife drive home even if I’ve had only one beer at a restaurant 2 miles from home.

    Until then, we’ll continue to lose 30+ people daily to drunk driving.

    It’s amazing that lawmakers won’t address the elephant in the room.

    Seat belts – my father trained me (and I trained my kids) to feel naked without them.

    All the other safety measures are only incrementally effective: air bags, auto-stop, lane departure, etc. However, I do think distracted driving is going to rise as a cause of auto deaths, so lane departure, etc seems like it would become more important over time. That, plus auto-stop, would also reduce drunk driving deaths.

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      Breath interlocks are an option up here. I think they should be used more if this is actually a growing problem.

      And who the hell still drives around without a seatbelt still? Worse, who does it and speeds? Seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        DukeGanote

        “Simple speeding” is a crock!! In fact the highest speed roads have the lowest “speeding” fatality rates.
        http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/23000/23100/23121/12SpeedCountsNumbers.pdf
        Excessive speed crashes have nothing to with the posted limit and everything to do with adverse conditions like sharp curves, slick roads, etc. Here’s a local example:
        http://m.wlwt.com/news/police-1-dead-in-west-chester-3car-crash/39902370
        When “speeding” is lamented by LEO, it’s just an excuse to hand out easy-ticket-ripoffs on the safest roads.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Good grief Cincinnati is over-represented around here. I think we’re up to like five or six people.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Vote someone off the island.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’ll have to reserve voting privilege until I hear what Duke drives. We can’t vote off the undertaker with an AWD V70.

          • 0 avatar
            DukeGanote

            It’s because the twisty roads attract people to Cincinnati as a fun city. Unless they don’t survive being young and foolish.
            http://m.fox19.com/fox19/pm_/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=od:7J7EnYp5

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I need to locate some good twisties, I don’t know where any are. For sure utilize that sweet Speed Sensitive Steering before I sell her on.

        • 0 avatar

          Exactly!!

          I’ve always maintained the faster you drive, the less time you spend on the road. The less time you spend on the road, the less chance of being hit by a drunk or distracted driver.

          I say this tongue-in-cheek, but would not be surprised to learn there is a grain of truth to it :-)

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          DukeGanote,
          I do think your comment is quite narrow in it’s target.

          What about the many roads that are not suitable for high speed travel in a motor vehicle?

          • 0 avatar
            DukeGanote

            The citations are broad in scope. I tell my kids the the unvarnished truth: the common causes of crashes are crossing traffic, opposing traffic, sharp curves and roadside hazards– all minimized on interstates. You’re most likely to get a ticket on an interstate, but most likely to die on a twisty back road. You’ll never hear a LEO state the facts as bluntly.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        “And who the hell still drives around without a seatbelt still? Worse, who does it and speeds? Seriously.”

        People who have never been seriously injured in an accident despite beating the odds.

        My favorite category is the driver that says something along the lines of; “The trooper said if I had been wearing a seat belt I would have been killed. Luckily I was ejected from the car and landed on my head so nothing of value was seriously injured!”

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It just baffles me that people over the limit think that somehow they are ok to drive. By the time I’m over the limit I’m wobbly enough that the idea of driving is terrifying.

      I’m a 205-pound male.

      One beer = .02 = no problem.
      Two beers, drunk quickly = .04 = better not to drive, but if there is no other option I can probably be OK by driving very conservatively and leaving myself lots of room.
      Three beers = .05-.06 = The road feels like a dangerous place!
      Five beers = over .08 for sure = I’ve never tried it, but I can’t even imagine. Walking straight starts to be a challenge, let alone staying inside lane lines or reacting if something darts in front.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        +1. If you look at those charts that show how many drinks it takes to exceed the .08 based on gender/weight, .08 starts to look unnecessarily lenient.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        DUI wrecks are disproportionately attributable to those who are above 0.15. This is a small percentage of the population, yet it contributes to over half of the DUI-related fatalities.

        If anything, the low BAC contributes to the DUI fatality problem because the enforcement effort is focused on a much larger group of drivers who were not as likely to crash. The alcoholics and heavy partiers are the low-hanging fruit on the DWI tree, but the focus is on less lethal tipsy drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        In the UK 0.035 is considered unfit to operate a motor vehicle. After driving there, I can see why they have a lower limit.

    • 0 avatar
      operagost

      “How about requiring breath interlocks as standard equipment?

      Didn’t think so. Culturally, it’s more acceptable to drive impaired than to surrender the keys to a sober driver.”

      I don’t like how you imply only reckless drunkards would oppose breath interlocks. I like my liberty, and I don’t think we need to give it up to mistake-prone and easily defeated devices. How would you like to have to breathe in one of those in an emergency? Remember when some schmucks thought it would be a great idea to disable cars if your belt wasn’t buckled?

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Aren’t breath interlocks easy to defeat?

    • 0 avatar

      I have had other people drive my car on a couple of handfuls of occasions when I’ve felt I had too much booze to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      SirRaoulDuke

      How about we equip cars with a device that zaps your nuts if you don’t use a turn signal?

      Less nanny state, not more.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Late to the party — Only thing we didn’t do properly was to buckle the manual, separate shoulder belts in my Mom’s ’71 Cutlass.

      Still remember getting strange looks from friends when buckling-up in the back seat as a 2nd-grader!

      As to speed, yup, this’ll be a “speed kills — get out and push” ploy.

      As far as impaired driving, I’m fine at knowing my limits. Closest I’ve come to not “listening” was the night before my 20th high-school reunion; after several hours at BW3s, I realized, as I got into my car (where things were quieter), that I was more “overserved” than I thought. Having no cell phone, I elected to make my way to the BP station on the other side of the parking lot from said wing establishment, where I called someone to get my car and myself. Sat down in the passenger seat with my seat belt fastened, keys on the driver’s seat, and waited.

  • avatar
    dahammer

    “One in ten deaths involved distracted driving.” That seems low, but it’s hard to interview a corpse.

    I cannot believe in this day and age that so many drivers don’t use seat belts.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m very safety conscious myself but I do wonder if all of the advances made in the past thirty years are interfering too much with natural selection.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        You wonder?

        Most of the soft-boiled hat-wearing stuffed shirts on this website wouldn’t have had any ancestors to bring their pallid visages into the world if we hadn’t already NERF’d it almost completely.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I do sense some sarcasm, but since most of the crop here is about 30 or older, it would be much older advancements who credited them with their progeny. If this is true, then today’s advancements will credit tomorrow with an even larger group of less gifted individuals. Egad.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I don’t believe in “safe spaces,” wherein it’s perversely easy to exist without fear of being mauled by a pack of wolves, or cannibalized by a rival tribe.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “I don’t believe in “safe spaces,” wherein it’s perversely easy to exist…”

            And yet you look for quilted toilet paper o_O

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I buy Charmin Ultra Strong, because I can afford to not get sh!t all over my hands, and yeah, it happens to be quilted.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            As you’ve seen, I have certain Powers. Allow me to direct them in a less scatological direction:

            Your greatest morning challenge is prying out a single coffee filter from inside the stack without first wetting your fingers.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Melitta #4 cone filters are stacked sideways, flat. This is never a problem!

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            Actually, I use a French press so my greatest morning challenge is trying to find a safe place to pass you.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      dahammer,
      A lack of proper driver educations and a lack of policing allows this to occur.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    We who have HR’ed the last couple of generations are unsurprised.

    My impulsive scatterbrains must, after all, get from home to work.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Too much horsepower!

  • avatar
    Sobro

    The fatality rate per 100 million VMT increased to 1.12
    from 1.08 in 2014, which was the lowest since NHTSA
    began collecting fatality data through the Fatality Analysis
    Reporting System in 1975.

    So, not really a 7.7% increase but a 3.5% increase. From the lowest ever “since NHTSA began collecting data”.

    crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812318

    • 0 avatar
      DukeGanote

      And the interstates have a fatality rate one-third or half that of other rural roads. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2014/fi30.cfm

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Is this due to the spike in Mustang sales?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Keep calm and carry on. Fatality levels per mile are below 2009 and 2012 levels, and are consistent with the trend over the last several years.

    https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/812269#

    A lot could be accomplished if seat belt usage rates and the driving age were increased, but I suppose that those things won’t happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      “I want to be thrown from the car in case of a fire”

      -Some guy that doesn’t wear a seat belt-

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Yes data per mile is the only useful measure in my view. Thanks for posting that.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Total deaths and deaths per population are useful for knowing how much trauma care and how many support services are needed to deal with car wrecks.

        But for vehicle safety questions, death per mile/km is the only way to go.

        And even that data has to placed into context. Economic recoveries tend to kill more people because (a) there is more driving and (b) the nature of driving also changes. Vacation driving is more lethal because it is more rural (higher speeds, greater distance from trauma care increases the odds of death) and there are likely to be more occupants in the vehicles when they do crash. The best way to reduce your odds of dying in a car wreck is to stay out of cars.

        • 0 avatar
          DukeGanote

          Depends on where you’re doing your vacation driving. Interstates are much safer than other roads.
          https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2014/fi30.cfm

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There is a reason why Massachusetts has some of the lowest fatality rates in the country, while Montana is consistently toward the top of the death list.

            Rural interstates are safer than rural highways with cross traffic, but that doesn’t mean that crashing at high speed is a safe thing to do.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      There is no correlation between driving age and skills except at the extreme upper-limit where failing sight and reaction time plays an issue.

      Instead, we found that young drivers are bad drivers because they’re inexperienced. Starting to drive at 21 or 30 makes no difference, they’re equally bad drivers. What we need is more practice behind the wheel for younger drivers and have state-sanctioned schools that actually provide training along with home instruction. Really, we should invest a minute amount of our vast resources into making better drivers today if only because self-driving is still a few decades away and we could use the benefit of employment towards goals.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Driver training is ineffective. Surely someone such as yourself who claims to be an academic should know that the academics who study this stuff for a living have already figured out that it doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work.

        • 0 avatar
          DukeGanote

          Exactly; so many people make the unwarranted assumption that “driver training” and “vehicle inspections” are the key to autobahn safety. NO WAY. Both expensive training and ridiculous inspections existed for decades in Germany, but it was only about 1984 that autobahns bettered the safety record of interstates. See page 2 of this IIHS newsletter, wherein they wail and whine about the facts:
          http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr2113.pdf

  • avatar
    srd275

    NHTSA needs to be honest about the decrease that occurred after 2007. That decrease was ECONOMIC! Just like the 2015 increase is ECONOMIC!

    Just compare 2007 to 2008 the year the recession hit. The deaths dropped from 41,259 to 37,423 DUE TO THE ECONOMY!

    That was a close to a 4,000 drop in ONE YEAR because of the start of the RECESSION!

    That was a RECESSION DROP!

    http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

    The 2007 was also last time we had a record driving year till 2015.

    It is really important to NOT compare 2015 to the recession years as any comparison to 2008 to 2014 numbers SKEW the results due the recession affecting the numbers.
    Here are 2006 thur 2014.

    http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx
    2006 US Death rate per mile 1.42 Total Deaths 42,708 Miles Driven 3.014 Trillion (3,014 VMT Billion)
    2007 US Death rate per mile 1.36 Total Deaths 41,259 Miles Driven 3.031 Trillion
    Recession Begins
    2008 US Death rate per mile 1.26 Total deaths 37,423. Miles Driven 2.977 Trillion (2,977 VMT Billion)
    Full year of recession
    2009 US Death rate per mile 1.15 Total deaths 33,883. Miles Driven 2.957 Trillion
    2010 US Death rate per mile 1.11 Total deaths 32,999. Miles Driven 2.967 Trillion
    2011 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,479. Miles Driven 2.950 Trillion
    2012 US Death rate per mile 1.14 Total deaths 33,782. Miles Driven 2.969 Trillion
    2013 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,894. Miles Driven 2,988 Trillion
    Starting to leave Recession
    2014 US Death rate per mile 1.08 Total deaths 32,675. Miles Driven 3.026 Trillion (3,026 VMT Billion)
    Also note that the “speeding’ number is from a category called “speed related” and is counting any crash that has speeding there REGARDLESS of Cause. https://www.motorists.org/alerts/nma-e-newsletter-348-bogus-statistics-hide-real-problems-and-solutions/

    “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers a crash to be speeding-related “if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.”

    So if a drunk its you and you are 5 over it is listed as “speeding’ even though your 5 over DID NOT cause it.
    NHTSA data out of 25 states listed crashes caused by “exceeding” the speed limit as low. http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/38/3801.asp “Out of 2.7 million traffic accidents recorded in twenty-five states over the course of a year, only 1.6 percent were caused by drivers who exceeded the posted speed limit. The figures come from an analysis by TheNewspaper of annual reports typically compiled by each state for use in applying for grant money from the National Highway Transportation Agency (NHTSA).”

    The cause is driving miles increasing with more DUI, younger drivers, and more discretionary driving.
    Also it is important to mention the DR per mile! It was 1.12 for 2015, lower than 2012 which was 1.14!
    http://www.motorists.org

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    When I was young I rarely wore seatbelts. Heck the first car I ever had, a rust bucket ’68 Firebird, only had lap belts that the previous owner had removed. I never bothered to put them back in. Oh the stupid things I did with that car! I’m lucky to be alive.

    I only started wearing seatbelts full-time after I read the history of Porsche racing. There was a story where a couple was going 25mph down a city road. Another car ran through an intersection so the driver – who was a race car driver – slammed on his brakes. His wife, who was the passenger, ended up cracking her head on the dashboard and dying. All because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. 25mph. That hit home.

    • 0 avatar

      Your mention of Porsche reminds me of someone I met shortly after arriving in the US. The consultant drove a 911 but steadfastly refused to wear a seatbelt. He blathered on about the government trampling on his freedoms and constitutional rights etc etc.

      I remarked that as a driver of a performance vehicle capable of high speeds I would have thought he would appreciate the need of a safety restraint. He answer? When I perceive a collision risk I brace myself.

      Not only was he a bad driver, he was a bad consultant.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        He never got the wet noddle discussion in driver’s ed? Also our desks had seat belts and it was an automatic fail every time you failed to put on your seat belt in class.

        I guess both worked. I have never willing ridden without a belt on (a car without a seat belt being the exception) and I feel naked without my seatbelt and well the wet noodle discussion in class was also useful since that is what your body acts like in a collision no matter how tough you think you are.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    No mention of drugged driving anywhere that I noticed. Maybe they consider that drunk driving these days. Certainly with the staggering amount of weed and other even more powerful drugs being consumed by people today, especially clueless youth, this must be a significant factor. I suppose that the one beer they consumed while getting stoned out of their gourd qualifies it as a drunk driving incident.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Take all the speed traps, where they’re handing out tickets for 5-10 over the limit, and not part of the problem, and put those cops in unmarked cars to drive along with the traffic and find the distracted and drunk drivers, and drivers following too close. Also, the penalties for drunk driving are still not sufficient.

  • avatar
    George B

    I blame traffic congestion due to low gasoline prices. What I see in North Texas is that traffic congestion is no longer confined to rush hour. Impaired old people and inebriated people used to be able to drive during times of the day when the streets were mostly empty. Today they have more opportunities to collide with another car. On top of this, there is a lot of off-peak road construction where lanes are shut down and rerouted in unexpected ways.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Thanks to those who posted the stats based on vehicle miles driven. If you don’t include this, or something like population, the stats are MEANINGLESS.

    Doesn’t make for good headlines either. And then the govt doesn’t have an excuse to “do something”.

    Honestly, I greet it all with a MEH. Driving drunk. Not wearing seatbelts. You can’t really fix stupid unfortunately.

    And I never buy the speeding argument either. Read some stats on what they consider simple speeding. Garbage like he hit a deer but was over the posted limit (probably already a posted limit set too low) and “speed” ends up on the report. And in addition those highest speed roads are the safest, as mentioned above. Yet where do I always see police? Interstates, hiding somewhere. To catch the dangerous speeding. Drive a 2 lane state highway for 13 hours a day and you’ll be surprised to see 1 officer all day.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      If you’re speeding in an area with deer and you fail to heed the caution warnings, then yes, speed is a contributing factor to such a crash.

      In areas where large animals are likely to wander onto the roads, you should slow down.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      As someone else posted, total fatalities are useful data for emergency response services. Fatalities per mile driven is useful for individuals.

      The “speed doesn’t kill” advocates are incapable of nuance. No, speed itself is not deadly. “Speeding” implies a high delta between you and surrounding traffic or between you and the road design. As the speed delta increases, the margin of safety decreases and the severity of a crash increases.

      Now, if the speed limit is artificially low, that’s a different story. Hard to say without a formal engineering analysis of the road.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Here’s an interactive global map of road fatalities. With comments.

    Use it. It will show you how poorly the US is in relation to it’s road safety.

    This is not a poke at the US, but gives an indication of where the US could be. The US has a long way to go to reach many of it’s OECD partners.

    People tend to live in the past and use miles driven, vehicle saturation per capita, etc. The reality is countries that have lower vehicle ownership also have more passengers per vehicle.

    Here the comment on the US from the map;

    United States
    The U.S. was an early pioneer in road safety standards, particularly with respect to engineering safer highways, implementing government-mandated safety standards for vehicles and enforcing strict drunk-driving laws. The number of road fatalities has been in steady decline since the early 1970s, but with 11.4 deaths per 100,000 citizens, the U.S.’s overall driving record is still poor compared to other wealthy nations.

    ………………………………………..

    Here’s the link;

    http://roadskillmap.com/#36.421282443649496,-103.0517578125,3

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    As an employee of an insurance company…..

    Distracted driving has reached what one could consider epidemic proportions. I was in a four day meeting last week regarding the issue. My firm is investigating more rear end collisions over 70! MPH with no evidence of braking then ever before.

    The insurance industry is having to make major changes to premium and what not as the losses and cost have sky rocketed. Each of us here, will notice our insurance rates increasing either already or soon. State Farm and Geico have filed for double digit rates increases in the last 45 days alone.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “My firm is investigating more rear end collisions over 70! MPH with no evidence of braking then ever before.”

      Those won’t end well.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        They don’t. Hence why fatalities are up. Lots of factors involved though and the # of miles driven IS increasing due to economic factors and more people are back to work as noted. As far as I have been aware, DUI wrecks are actually on the way down but honestly I don’t spend a lot of time with that sort of data.

        Distracted driving is currently a far greater issue than DUI or Weed influenced driving.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Meaning, someone driving 70+ on the highway didn’t notice traffic ahead slowing down to, say, 50mph? (high absolute speed, moderate relative speed)

      or

      Someone driving 70+ rear-ending a vehicle fully stopped at a light or sign? (high absolute speed, high relative speed)

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I stopped at a major intersection in my hometown today (5 lanes N/S and 5 lanes E/W). I was in the inner lane and we all pulled away from the light and the outer lane traffic shot ahead while my column was dogging along 5-10 mph below the speed limit. When I got to my turn I saw why…Lincoln Navigator holding up traffic, and it looked like it had been rear ended multiple times…and driving too damn slow is probably the reason.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My last renewal went up with Nationweird, which NEVER happens on the second renewal in the year, until now. (No at-faults, no tickets since 2009.)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Cheap fuel is to blame, so not many are pocketing the savings. They’re driving more. Exponentially. And faster.

    It’s rumoured the price of unleaded is kept artificially high by the Feds. If it was under a buck in too many places, it’d be catastrophic.

    I think the price of diesel is at it’s true market value, and it’s the first time in decades it’s cheaper than unleaded.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Well I know that there is atleast 4 folks on this post that are saying, (this wouldn’t happen if all cars were autonomous)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Walking Junk Yards in Albuquerque, NM to – day , almost 9 out of 10 vehicles were wrecked , lots and lots of rollovers , other high speed wrecks , drunk/drugs I imagine .

    Not wearing seat belts is a death wish .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      People find very creative ways to wreck. There was an END OVER END pickup truck accident recently on a straight, level, highly traveled stretch of road recently. It was in broad daylight on a clear day, I’m not even sure how they got going that fast given the usual high traffic there.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Seat belts are the leading cause of ejection seat malfunctions in automobiles.

    THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU BUCKLE UP

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    All of this is a mystery. How do you explain the dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities? It can’t possibly have anything to do with safety equipment.
    I live in a rural state and pedestrian fatalities are almost outrunning DWI fatalities.

    That half of all fatalities come from not wearing seatbelts after all these years astonishes me.

    Usage rates don’t vary all that much by age.

  • avatar
    donk1

    Maybe a concerted effort on Random Breath Testing & Mobile Drug testing will alleviate some issues there. The biggest problem in the US is not enforcing the compulsory use of seat belts for front & back seat passengers. Australia was the first country in the world for compulsory wearing by all passengers in 1971 & road deaths here are still historically low, despite an increase in drink & drug impaired drivers. An increase of speed limits to 120km/h on some freeways & a reduction of speed limits on others have helped the road toll to stay relatively low. Food for thought for over in the States.

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    Im just going to go ahead and point out the elephant in the room that most here seem to be forgetting. Humans cannot handle smart phones and driving at the same time. I drive 40 miles each way of my daily commute through Houston traffic. 80-90% of the slowdowns and fender benders are directly related to telephone use. While Houston is growing, traffic is getting worse because people cannot stay off of their telephones. A few weeks ago I was almost hit in a crosswalk by a driver who was so busy texting that he didnt check the crosswalk(that I had the ROW in) before turning.

    Texting/Phone use in Houston is a serious issue now, and I will pay to be on one lane toll roads just because it is safer.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “A few weeks ago I was almost hit in a crosswalk by a driver who was so busy texting that he didnt check the crosswalk(that I had the ROW in) before turning.”

      You’re looking at this situation TOTALLY the wrong way. You need to keep your head on a swivel and look for opportunity. When the next bad multitasker (someone who can’t competently text and drive at the same time) almost runs you down, spot them before it happens. Then whirl into action: give a hard, solid kick to the door and then start screaming to high heaven how you are injured.

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