Last year saw a massive one-year spike in traffic fatalities

Driving in the U.S. is getting more dangerous and deadlier. According to the New York Times, recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that last year saw the biggest single-year spike in fatal traffic accidents since 1966. The NHTSA notes that while much of the increase is due to an increase in overall traffic — itself driven by an improving economy and low gas prices — distracted driving, speeding, and impaired driving are also significant contributing factors. Even more worrying is the fact that safety experts suggest that the trend of increasing traffic fatalities is continuing into 2016.

Highest one-year spike

There were a total of 35,092 highway fatalities across the U.S. in 2015, which represents a 7.2 percent increase in fatalities from 2014's figures. That 7.2 percent increase is highly unusual and is the biggest spike the NHTSA has recorded in 40 years. Many of the deaths were preventable, with officials noting that half of those killed were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of their accident.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists also accounted for a large share of overall traffic fatalities. The NHTSA notes that pedestrian and cyclist fatalities were higher in 2015 than at any other point in the last 20 years, for example, while also noting that motorcycle fatalities were up by a staggering eight percent nationwide.

Investigating the causes

As Bloomberg reports, an increase in overall traffic helps explain some of the increase in fatalities. Vehicle-miles-traveled, for example, rose by 3.5 percent in 2015, which was the highest increase over a single year in two and a half decades. The increase in traffic is largely attributed to an improving economy, lower unemployment, and low gas prices, all of which allow more people to drive more often.

However, given that the spike in traffic fatalities is the highest the NHTSA has seen in 40 years, a traffic increase alone does not entirely explain why the nation's highways are becoming so much more dangerous. Officials also point out that distracted driving, especially from smartphones, is playing a growing role in traffic fatalities, while impaired driving and speeding continue as significant threats. The National Safety Council predicts that 2016 will be another deadly year, with the first six months of this year already showing a nine-percent increase in traffic fatalities compared to the first half of 2015.

Personal injury law

As serious accidents continue to increase, it is important for accident victims to know that they have somebody they can turn to during the often confusing aftermath of a crash. Financial pressures are often considerable after an accident, with victims often worried about not only how they will be able to pay for treatment and therapy, but also about what time off work will mean for them and their families. Fortunately, a personal injury attorney can help. An experienced attorney can guide victims through the claims process and help them fight for the compensation they may ultimately be entitled to.