After two years of increases in 2015 and 2016, the number of people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways finally decreased in 2017. In 2017, 37,133 people were victims of fatal crashes, a 1.8-percent decrease from the 2016 figure of 37,806, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most of the victims were occupants of passenger vehicles, although many pedestrian deaths added to the total.
Vehicle Occupant Fatalities:
- Passenger cars: 13,363
- Light trucks: 10,188
- Motorcycles: 5,172
- Large trucks, buses, and other vehicles: 841
Vehicle Non-Occupant Fatalities:
- Pedestrians: 5,977
- Pedal cyclists: 783
- Other/unknown: 228
Texas saw 3,722 motor vehicle accident fatalities in 2017, down 2 percent from 3,797 in 2016, according to the NHTSA.
Alcohol-Related Accidents Declining
Unsurprisingly, alcohol-impaired driving accounted for a sizable chunk of 2017 fatalities: 10,874, or 29 percent of the total, says the NHTSA. However, this is a 1.1 percent decrease from the 2016 figure—and, in fact, is the lowest percentage since 1982, when the NHTSA started reporting alcohol data.
Texas saw 1,468 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities in 2017, 39 percent of the total. This is down only 0.7 percent from 2016’s 1,478 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, says the NHTSA.
Distracted Driving Also an Issue
NHTSA officially classified only 8.5 percent of 2017 deaths as affected by distracted driving, NHTSA deputy director Heidi King told USA Today. But in reality, the number is probably much higher, she said, because drivers are reluctant to officially state that they were distracted while driving. King told USA Today that “state and local law-enforcement authorities report that drivers are increasingly looking away from the road to use their devices.”
No Cause for Celebration
Although the fatality numbers have decreased slightly, the number still represents the second-deadliest year on the road in the last decade, USA Today reports.
The newspaper also cited what it calls “the nation’s pedestrian safety crisis,” noting that the 5,977 pedestrian deaths was the second-highest number reported by NHTSA in the previous 27 years. The highest number occurred in 2016, when there were 6,080 pedestrian deaths.
A Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network investigation found that “the SUV revolution is a key, leading cause of escalating pedestrian deaths nationwide. … SUVs are the constant in the increase and account for a steadily growing proportion of deaths.”
While NHTSA officials were glad to see overall crash fatalities decline slightly, King told USA Today that “there is no single reason for the overall decline.”
Making Roads Safer Through Big Data
Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation announced two pilot programs “to provide insights that will help improve safety on our highways” using so-called “big data.”
One pilot program will integrate traffic crash data with crowdsourced hazard data from the navigation app Waze to see whether this information can be used to predict likely future accidents, reports FedScoop. “This initiative will examine the feasibility of using this new crowdsourcing application to provide a reliable, timely indicator of reportable traffic crashes and estimate crash risk,” says the DOT.
The other pilot program will focus on speed, combining crash data with anonymous prevailing speed data from GPS-enabled devices. “For the first time, the Department will be able to look directly at prevailing operating speeds at a large scale to see how speed and speed differentials interact with roadway characteristics to influence the likelihood of crashes,” the DOT says.
While safety improvements may be coming, in the here and now you or a loved one may be the victim of a motor vehicle accident at any time. If that happens, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Evans Law Firm for a free consultation.