NHTSA finds increase in auto fatalities in 2015, points to human causes

The federal agency notes that the increase is surprising since the rates have been steadily declining since 2000.

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that it has observed a "steep" increase in the rate of traffic accident fatalities for the first nine months of 2015. The results are surprising since the rate of traffic fatalities in the United States has been steadily declining since 2000.

More on the data

The data shows a 9.3 percent increase, translating to over 26,000 lives lost, during the measured nine month stretch in 2015 compared to the same time period in 2014. The number one cause for these accidents, according to the agency, is human factors. Examples include:

  • Drunk driving . The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every day an estimated 30 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes involving a driver impaired by alcohol in the United States.
  • Distracted driving . The CDC also reports that over nine people are killed and 1,153 injured in car crashes that involve a distracted driver every day in the U.S. The CDC defined distracted driving as any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. It broke the distractions down into three broad categories: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual involved removing one’s eyes from the road, manual taking hands off the wheel and cognitive involved mental distractions. Examples included use of a cell phone, texting, using navigation devices and eating.
  • Speeding . The NHTSA reports that 10,219 traffic fatalities in 2012 were connected to speeding. The agency considers speeding a contributing factor to an accident when the driver was either charged with a speeding-related offense or the officer at the scene indicated that "racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash."

Those who choose to operate their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, choose to check their smartphones or succumb to other distractions while driving or choose to disobey posted speed limits and put others in danger can be held accountable for their actions. In addition to criminal penalties that can result in fines, suspension of the driver’s license and imprisonment, civil penalties are also available. These civil penalties can translate to monetary awards for victims. These awards can help victims cover the costs associated with the accident. Costs like medical bills, prescription costs, rehabilitation expenses, additional treatments, lost wages and potential pain and suffering awards.

Victims interested in pursuing this form of justice are wise to contact an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer. This legal professional can discuss your options and help better ensure your rights and remedies are protected.