NHTSA Fatality Report Shows More Work to be Done
Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its report on fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2016. The report from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows some disappointingly large increases in the number of fatalities across the board in all vehicle types including large trucks, passenger cars, light trucks and motorcycles.
NHTSA reports 37,461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roadways, an increase of 5.6 percent from the 35,485 people killed in crashes in 2015. The increase was not the largest percentage increase. That distinction came in 1964 when the number of fatalities increased by 9.4 percent over the year prior and 51 years later when the percentage increase was 8.4 percent in 2015 over 2014. The increase in the number of fatalities correlates to a 2.2 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT)* and a 2.6 percent increase in the fatality rate per 100 million VMT, which was 1.18 in 2016.
Breaking down the numbers, fatalities from large truck-related crashes increased by 8.6 percent, while fatalities from crashes involving passenger vehicles increased by 4.7 percent and those involving motorcycles increased by 5.1 percent. NHTSA reports 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks, 5.4 percent more fatalities than in 2015, the highest since 2007. Of the 4,317 fatalities, 722 (16.7 percent) were occupants of large trucks**; 10.8 percent were non-occupants; and 72.4 percent were occupants of other vehicles. The number of crashes involving large trucks in 2016—223—represents a 5.4 percent increase over the number of crashes in the same category in 2015.
A particularly worrisome statistic for the trucking industry was the near 51 percent jump in the number of fatal crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers of large trucks from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, 83 alcohol-impaired drivers of large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. That’s an increase of 28 over the previous year’s total. Although NHTSA does point out in its report that the percentage increase involving impaired drivers of large trucks is based on much smaller numbers than the other vehicle types.
On the brighter side, efforts to reduce distracted driving and drowsy driving appear to be making a difference. The number of fatalities in distraction-affected crashes decreased by 2.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 and the number of fatalities involving drowsy drivers decreased by 3.5 percent in that same time frame.
At Drivewyze and at our parent company, Intelligent Imaging Systems, our core vision remains working toward “a safe and efficient commercial vehicle transportation system with zero crashes and zero fatalities.” Too many of our team members have lost friends and family members to traffic fatalities.
Our connected truck services help commercial vehicle enforcement officers improve their efficiency by providing safe carriers bypasses. This allows them to spend less time with those safe carriers and more time scrutinizing those that deserve the added attention. Our services also provide drivers visual and audible notifications on their electronic logging devices of roadway hazards as they approach them. The improved efficiency among commercial vehicle inspectors and the heightened awareness among truck drivers of upcoming roadway hazards can help prevent crashes that could lead to fatalities.
As we continue our work towards fulfilling that core vision, this NHTSA report clearly shows we still have a long road ahead of us.
* The NHTSA report did not break down the total number of vehicle miles traveled into different vehicle types. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports the total number of vehicle miles traveled by single-unit and combination trucks was 279.8 billion miles in 2015, a barely noticeable increase of .25 percent over 2014. Statistics for 2016 are not yet available from the bureau. However, the Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Policy Information earlier this year released forecasts of vehicle miles traveled with annual growth rates estimated over a 20-year period starting from 2015. The agency pegged the average baseline annual growth of VMT for single-unit and combination trucks at 1.07 percent from 2015 to 2035.
** A large truck is defined by NHTSA as a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.