U.S. Traffic Deaths Jump To Decade-High

Traffic fatalities in the U.S. jumped for the second straight year in 2016 according to data released by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The auto safety agency said traffic fatalities rose 2.6 percent to 1.18 deaths per 100 million miles driven.

While many are quick to point to distracted driving as the culprit, the numbers tell another story. Distraction-related traffic deaths declined 2.2 percent in 2016, according to NHTSA, and drowsy-driving deaths were down 3.5 percent.

However, deaths linked to other risky behaviors such as speeding, drunk driving and not wearing seat belts contributed to an overall gain in fatalities, the agency said. Drunk driving was blamed for the most deaths.

Senior citizen drivers are accounting for a rising number of traffic deaths, the report showed. Drivers in fatal crashes aged 65 and above rose 8.2 percent last year.

The upward trend marks a reversal after fatalities fell in six of the seven years from 2007 to 2014. Deaths are up to 37,461 from an all-time low of 32,744 in 2014.

There are a few other troubling data points:

Motorcyclist deaths increased 5.1 percent to 5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008.

Pedestrian deaths increased 9 percent to 5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990.

Bicyclist deaths increased 1.3 percent to 840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991.

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.”

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