Deaths due to motor vehicle accidents had been decreasing for several years, here in Maryland and across the U.S. However, last year that trend took a turn for the worse — with the deadliest traffic accident fatality statistics seen in decades. The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) reports that a total 35,092 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 — up 7.2 percent compared to 2014. Alcohol-impaired traffic accidents accounted for a significant number of fatalities, with 10,265 deaths resulting from driving under the influence (DUI) crashes in 2015. An average of 28 people a day were killed in DUI motor vehicle accidents in 2016.
A NHTSA spokesperson told CBS News, “We’re seeing these increases that we have not seen in 50 years. It’s tragic.” The government agency is trying to determine why motor vehicle accident fatalities are on the increase, after so many years of progress making our roads and highways safer and saving lives. And despite our state’s traffic safety laws, motor vehicle crash fatality statistics in Maryland are also trending in the wrong direction.
Here in Maryland, CBS Baltimore reported a significant jump in driving under the influence arrests in 2015. Maryland law enforcement made 550 DUI arrests in 2015, compared to 450 DUI arrests in 2014. NHTSA reported 513 total traffic accident deaths in Maryland in 2015 – up from 442 deaths in 2014. Maryland drunk driving accidents accounted for more than one-third of traffic crash fatalities in 2015.
Public safety awareness campaigns, state traffic laws, and vehicle safety enhancements have all helped to reduce traffic accident deaths in recent years. Now NHTSA is trying to analyze why motor vehicle accident deaths are increasing at such an alarming rate across nearly all segments — including passenger vehicles, large trucks, and both male and female drivers in day and night time crashes. An increase this large has not been seen since the late 1960s. In addition, traffic accidents resulting in pedestrian deaths, bicyclist deaths, and motorcyclist deaths have also increased across the U.S.
NHTSA plans to share its Fatality Analysis Reporting System with safety partners, state and local officials, technologists, data scientists, and policy experts to determine why traffic accident deaths have risen so dramatically. NHTSA has identified the following contributing factors:
- Traffic accident statistics tend to rise when more people are driving on our roads and highways. In 2015, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased 3.5 percent over 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years. This may be due to cheaper gasoline prices and job growth making leisure travel by car more affordable for more people.
- Not wearing seat belts is a factor in a great percentage of deadly automobile crashes. Almost half of passenger vehicle occupants killed were not buckled up.
- Distracted driving, drowsy driving, and speeding continue to make our roadways more dangerous and deadly. These factors combined with drinking alcohol while driving create a recipe for disaster. Research shows almost one in three fatalities involved drunk drivers or speeding, while one in 10 fatalities involved distracted driving.
We will report on complete 2016 traffic accident data as it becomes available. In the mean time, stay safe out there on our Maryland city streets, roadways, and highways. There are too many things going on behind the wheel besides paying attention to the road and driving safely.
2016 may go down as one of the worst years for drunk-driving deaths
CBSNews.com Dec. 26, 2016
Traffic Fatalities Rise Sharply in 2015
NHTSA.gov Press Release Aug. 29, 2016
Huge Jump In DUI Arrests From 2014 To 2015
CBSBaltimore.com Jan. 6, 2016
2015 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Aug. 2016