Fatal Traffic Accidents Increased Last Year But Not Due To Distracted Driving

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Thank drunk drivers and speeding instead.

Every year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gathers data for the number of US road fatalities and what caused them. Unfortunately, 2016 saw the highest number of road fatalities since 2007, with a total of 41,259 people killed. That's a 5.6 percent increase from 2015. What's the cause(s)? If you think distracted driving mainly due to smartphones and other related tech then you'd be wrong. Distracted driving deaths actually dropped last year, but the number of fatalities due to drunk driving and speeding increased.

Drinking at the wheel saw a 1.7 percent increase in fatalities, for a total of 10,497 deaths. Speed-related deaths increased by 4 percent, to 10,111. 2016 also saw an increase of fatalities for motorcyclists and bicyclists. The precise number of distracted driving related deaths was 3,450. Falling asleep at the wheel fatalities also saw a decrease from 2015, dropping 2.2 percent to 803 deaths. Unfortunately, 2016 also had the highest number of pedestrians killed by motorized vehicles since 1990, with a total of 5,987 fatalities. When sorting through the data, the NHTSA also took into account the number of miles Americans drove in 2016 compared to previous years.

Not surprisingly, Americans drove 2.2 percent more miles than in 2015, which obviously isn't good when compared to the fatality figures. The data concluded there are now 1.18 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Also disturbing is that in 2015, traffic deaths increased by 8.4 percent from 2014, the highest year-to-year increase in fatalities since the 1960s. Taking everything you've just read into account, it's easier to understand than ever why there's such a huge push, from both automakers and governments, for autonomous cars and even more advanced safety technologies. The US government has already set a goal of zero traffic deaths by 2046.

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Photo of the wreckage making its rounds on the web, of unknown provenance.

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