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United States

US traffic deaths increased in 2016, but not because drivers were texting and driving

Some 37,461 died in vehicle collisions in 2016 in the highest tally since 2007

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 3:11am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 October, 2017, 4:01am

Traffic fatalities in the US rose for the second-straight year in 2016 despite a dip in crash deaths linked to distracted driving, according to data released by federal highway safety regulators.

Some 37,461 people died in vehicle collisions in 2016, the highest annual tally since 2007, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 5.6 per cent rise in traffic deaths last year came after a 8.4 per cent spike in 2015, which was the largest annual increase since the mid-1960s.

Fatalities from distracted drivers, such as those texting, fell 2.2 per cent last year, the NHTSA reported on Friday. Deaths linked to other risky behaviours such as speeding, drink-driving and not wearing seat belts contributed to an overall gain in fatalities, the agency said. Drink-driving was blamed for the most deaths.

The agency “continues to promote vehicle technologies that hold the potential to reduce the number of crashes and save thousands of lives every year,” it said in a statement. They “may eventually help reduce or eliminate human error and the mistakes that drivers make behind the wheel.”

Regulators have sounded the alarm about the rising safety risks on the roads and motorways, which comes after a downward trend for the last decade. The gains have also fuelled interest on Capitol Hill in self-driving vehicles as a way to curb deadly crashes, with lawmakers advancing legislation to speed autonomous vehicle deployment.

NHTSA also found that pedestrian, motorcyclist and bicyclist deaths also rose in 2016. Non-vehicle occupants accounted for nearly a third of all crash fatalities last year, up from roughly one-in-four traffic deaths in 2007.