Last year saw the highest increase in number of miles driven in nearly 25 years. In addition, more than 35,000 people died in traffic accidents nationwide, according to new data from the U.S. Transportation Department. The 7.2% year-over-year spike in traffic fatalities runs counter to a 50-year trend of declining fatalities. Officials are blaming a combination of lower gasoline prices and steady job growth for the jump.
The last time U.S. traffic fatalities spiked like this was in 1966, when they went up 8.1%. That was two years before the federal government required seat belts in cars.
Nearly one-third of fatalities involved drunk drivers or speeding, and more than half of all passengers killed were not wearing a seat belt. Distracted driving was also a major factor, and was cited in about a tenth of traffic fatalities in 2015.
The increase in traffic deaths wasn’t limited to drivers and passengers in motor vehicles. Motorcyclist fatalities increased by 8.3% and the number of pedestrians killed rose by 9.5%. Cyclist deaths jumped more than 12% — the highest levels since 1995.
This year isn’t shaping up to be any better. A new report from the National Safety Council found that fatalities from traffic accidents were 9% higher in the first six months of 2016 than during the same time period last year. Nearly 19,100 people have died on U.S. roads since January, and 2.2 million have been injured, the report said.
The figures aren’t all bad news. For starters, the number of fatalities is still trending down in the long run. In addition, driving is far safer now than it was in the past. For example, in 1966, nearly 51,000 people were killed on the road. When measured in number of deaths per mile, that rate is five times higher than the fatalities recorded in 2015.
Abiding by traffic laws can help prevent traffic deaths and failure to do so can result in fines, fees, points on your license, insurance premium increases, and other consequences. If you or someone you love has been ticketed or arrested in connection with a traffic accident or any moving violation, it is essential that you retain an attorney to help fight the charges. Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law is an experienced criminal defense and traffic ticket attorney with offices in New York and New Jersey. Email him or call 888-203-2619 for a free consultation about your case.