U.S. Traffic Deaths Leap to Highest Totals in a Decade

by Terry Bryant

People died on U.S. highways at an alarming rate in 2016. Traffic fatalities rose 6% that year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), reaching an estimated 40,200 deaths, compared to 37,000 in 2015. It was the highest single jump in traffic deaths in over 50 years (since 1973-74). But surprisingly, deaths due to distracted driving fell ever so slightly in 2016, to 3,450; a 2% decrease.

The 2016 Texas traffic death toll of 3,773 was an increase of 5% from the 3,578 deaths recorded in 2015. There were 14,200 serious injury crashes in Texas in 2016, with 17,582 people sustaining a serious injury. Other noteworthy Texas figures include:

  • 496 motorcyclists (operators and passengers) were killed in 2016. 53% of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets when the crash occurred.
  • Pedalcyclist fatalities totaled 65 in 2016, a 25% jump over 2015.
  • Pedestrian fatalities totaled 678 in 2016, which was a 21% percent increase over 2015.
  • In 2016, 987 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 26% of the Texas crash fatalities.
  • One person died in an accident every 2 hours and 20 minutes.
  • One person was injured every two minutes.
  • One reportable crash occurred every 57 seconds.

The rise in overall U.S. fatalities was attributed to the usual reasons: speeding, drunk driving, and more miles being driven each year. Another reason for the sharp uptick is that some motorists and passengers still resist wearing safety belts.

Since 2009, Texas Transportation Code [TTC § 545.413] has required both drivers and passengers to wear safety belts. All passengers (including adults) in the back seat must be buckled up. And children younger than eight (8) years old must ride in a child safety seat or booster seat if they are under 45 inches (4 feet 9 inches) tall.

Cyclists and Pedestrians Didn’t do That Well in 2016 Either

There were nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed last year, the highest total since 1990. Bicycle deaths hit a 25-year high as well – 840.

Over the past decade, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) the percentage of all highway fatalities involving people in cars and light trucks slipped to 64% from 70%. The NHTSA also estimates that seat belts, air bags, and other restraints saved 17,752 in 2016. It also estimates that fatal traffic crashes cost the U.S. economy $242 billion that year.

Nationally, almost eight in ten who survived what would have been otherwise-fatal wrecks have their safety belts to thank, according to the NHTSA. So, despite recent advances in vehicle safety technology, simply wearing your seat belt is still the No. 1 factor in surviving a serious wreck.

In another closely watched vehicle safety category, 4,317 people died in large truck wrecks in 2016; a 5% increase over 2015. Of those fatalities, the number who were truck occupants grew by almost 9%.

If you are a traffic accident victim of a negligent driver, the experienced accident attorneys with Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law can help protect your compensation rights when you are injured. Contact us by filling out our online contact form or give us a call: toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 or locally at (713) 973-8888.