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According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 35,200 people died in car accidents in 2015, a 7.7 percent increase over the previous year. This would also be the deadliest year on the nation's roadways since 2008.
We're told our cars are getting safer all the time, so why were last year's accidents so deadly? One of the reasons might surprise you.
It's a Gas
NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind pointed to the rise in traffic fatalities to a rise in miles driven. And why are Americans spending more time on the road? "As the economy has improved and gas prices have fallen, more Americans are driving more miles," Rosekind said in a NHTSA press release.
Rosekind was quick to point out, however, that it's not just about how many people are behind the wheel, but how people behind the wheel react to traffic. "Ninety-four percent of crashes can be tied back to a human choice or error," he said, "so we know we need to focus our efforts on improving human behavior while promoting vehicle technology that not only protects people in crashes, but helps prevent crashes in the first place."
The price of gas did drop precipitously in 2015, which could lead to drivers logging more miles. But the rate of traffic fatalities also increased, from 1.08 deaths per 100 million miles driven in 2014 to 1.12 deaths in 2015.
The biggest uptick in the statistics involved drivers aged 15 to 20, who were involved in 10 percent more fatal car accidents this year. Is this because all kids these days are texting or playing Pokémon Go? Probably not -- new drivers generally don't have the skill or experience of older drivers.
And who are the victims of this surge in traffic fatalities? Pedestrians and cyclists, according to the NHTSA repot. There was a 10 percent increase in pedestrian deaths in 2015, along with a 13 percent increase in cyclist deaths. This proves drivers need to watch out for more than just other cars.
If you've been in a serious car accident, you can get legal help. An experienced car accident attorney can assess your claims, and many are happy to consult with you about your case for free.