U.S. traffic deaths rose 9.3 percent in the first nine months of last year after years of decline.
The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report estimates that more than 26,000 people died in traffic crashes in the first nine months of 2015, compared to the 23,796 fatalities in the first nine months of 2014. U.S. regions nationwide showed increases ranging from 2 percent in the mid-Atlantic and South Central states to 16 percent in the Southeast and 20 percent in the Northwest.
The estimated increase in highway deaths follows years of steady, gradual declines. Traffic deaths declined 1.2 percent in 2014 and more than 22 percent from 2000 to 2014.
NHTSA said it sees the recent data as a signal that it needs to do more. It has begun a series of regional summits that will examine unsafe behaviors and human choices that contribute to increasing traffic deaths on a national scale. Human factors contribute to 94 percent of crashes, according to NHTSA research.
“We’re seeing red flags across the U.S. and we’re not waiting for the situation to develop further,” said Dr. Mark Rosekind, NHTSA Administrator. “It’s time to drive behavioral changes in traffic safety and that means taking on new initiatives and addressing persistent issues like drunk driving and failure to wear seat belts.”