U.S. traffic fatalities show a “troubling increase” for the first six months of the year, federal officials say.
The 2015 fatality estimate is up just over 8 percent from deaths in the same period last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Nov. 24.
Distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all crash fatalities in 2014, killing 3,179 people, the DOT said.
The DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that while the spike in 2015 deaths could be reduced as final numbers come in, “the estimated increase represents a troubling departure from a general downward trend.”
“These numbers are a call to action,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
NHTSA’s reporting system FARS said 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, a 0.1 percent decrease from the previous year.
NHTSA said it will hold a series of “cross-cutting regional meetings” across the country early next year, “capped by a nationwide gathering in Washington, to gather ideas, engage new partners, and generate additional approaches to combat human behavioral issues that contribute to road deaths.” These include distracted driving as well as drunk, drugged and drowsy driving. The NHTSA says 94 percent of crashes can be tracked back to a human element.
“It is time as a nation to reinvigorate the fight against drunk and drugged driving, distraction and other risks that kill thousands every year, and time for state and local governments to reassess whether they are making the right policy choices to improve highway safety,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
Officials said the lower price of gas, increased driving and more driving by young people could be behind the 2015 rise in fatalities.