Road accident deaths surge through first half of 2015

Published: November 29, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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America’s roads are becoming more dangerous according to an official report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it could be smartphones that are the cause for a significant rise in road accident fatalities.

The NHTSA released its preliminary results for the first half of 2015 and the report shows that traffic related fatalities stood at 16,225 through the period January through June, 2015. The statistics show that the figure represents the biggest jump in deaths (year on year) since 1977, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributing many of the deaths to increased smartphone use.

"The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there's no question that has to play some role. But we don't have enough information yet to determine how big a role," said Mark Rosekind, who leads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal government's auto safety watchdog.

2014 was actually the best year since records began, when yearly traffic deaths fell to 32,675 last year, which equated to 1.07 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled. 2014 also produced fewer passenger fatalities, 21,022, again the lowest since 1975. While 2015 is seemingly on course to produce more traffic related fatalities the NHTSA is being cautious and says that half year statistics can transform significantly by the end of the year.

The organization cites 2012 as an example, where a 7.9 per cent increase through opening six months of the year fell to a 4 per cent hike by the close of the year; still high but not excessively so.

“It is important for Americans to know that human behaviors are by far the largest cause of fatalities,” Rosekind said.

"Behavioral safety programs are the heart of NHTSA's safety mission," Rosekind said in a statement. "While great public attention is focused on safety defects and recalls, and rightfully so, 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."