Traffic deaths in 2016 rise to highest level since 2007, says NHTSA

Deaths from motor vehicle crashes rose 5.6 percent last year to their highest level since 2007, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The increase is not as great as from 2015 to 2016, when traffic fatalities rose nearly 10 percent, but those two years reverse a decline over several years.

Auto crashes caused the deaths of 37,461 people in 2016. One factor could be a 2.2 percent uptick in vehicle miles traveled.
One piece of good news: Deaths from distracted driving and drowsy driving decreased. But deaths related to other reckless behaviors – speeding, drinking and not wearing seat belts – continued to increase. Motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths accounted for more than a third of the year-to-year increase.

Traffic deaths declined in six of the seven years from 2007 to 2014. One reason is an increase in vehicle safety technology, such as anti-lock brakes. Automatic emergency braking, rearview cameras, lane departure warning and advanced air bags have also improved vehicle safety.

A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that the increasingly complicated infotainment systems in cars are a distraction for many drivers. Drivers using in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks such as programming navigation or sending a text message. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous AAA research.

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