Statement on 2016 Increases in Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths

  • October 6, 2017
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety


October 6, 2017

Contact: Eric Naing 202-408-1711, cell: 217-493-8294,




Upward Trend Continues as New Government Data Shows Fatalities Up Over 5% Last Year 

More than 100 People Killed Each Day in Motor Vehicle Crashes While Solutions Languish in State Legislatures, in Congress, and at the U.S. DOT

Today’s release of 2016 highway fatalities by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) is appalling but not surprising. This is the second year in a row that fatalities have increased, reversing a previous trend of decline. The problem is clear, but so are the solutions. Too many states lack too many safety laws and that is contributing to this public health crisis.  At the federal level, critical safety standards that would make our highways safer for everyone are delayed or ignored.

The U.S. DOT is overdue in issuing Congressionally-mandated rules including rear seat belt reminder systems, which is especially egregious given that passenger vehicle occupant fatalities are at their highest level since 2008 and nearly half of those killed were unrestrained. Additionally, pedestrian deaths jumped by nine percent. Vehicle design improvements can be made that would reduce the severity of collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists, and NHTSA should issue a safety standard. Safety technologies such as automatic emergency braking (AEB) are also critical to avoiding and mitigating collisions. These and other much-needed safety requirements have the potential to save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of injuries.

Disturbingly, fatalities in crashes involving large trucks increased by five percent last year and, since 2009, have increased a staggering 28 percent. Yet, in recent months U.S. DOT has rolled back critical safety reforms.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) withdrew rulemakings that would have ensured that truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea received proper medical treatment before getting behind the wheel and help the agency better assess the safety record of trucking companies. In addition, several critical regulatory actions requiring speed limiting devices and AEB on the entire fleet continue to languish at DOT despite the fact that many trucks are already equipped with these life-saving technologies. Moreover, special corporate trucking interests are continuing their assault in Congress to roll back federal rules on truck size and weight limits and protections against driver fatigue.

Across the nation, there are 370 state traffic safety laws that are urgently needed. It is time for governors and state lawmakers to heed these grim statistics and take action to spare families the loss of loved ones. States should make enactment of lifesaving traffic safety laws an urgent and top priority. These are laws to require vehicle occupants to buckle up in every seating position, all motorcyclists to always wear a helmet, children to be seated in age appropriate child restraints, novice teen drivers to gain necessary experience behind the wheel, and to curb impaired and distracted driving. Moreover, speed is one of the most common causes of crashes and is a contributing factor in more than one quarter of all fatal crashes. Further, Americans are more likely to be injured in a red light running related event than any other type of crash. Despite these alarming statistics, efforts to repeal or weaken automated enforcement programs and to increase speed limits prevail across the country. As of today, 41 states permit speeds of 70 mph or higher, and Texas allows speeds up to 85 mph on some roadways.

Last year, 37,461 people were killed on our streets and roads. If there were 102 people dying every day last year in airplane crashes, our federal and state lawmakers would be rushing to pass laws and issue regulations to address a serious and costly public health crisis. Instead, the U.S. DOT releases the bad news on a Friday afternoon prior to a three day public holiday hoping to divert attention from these grim statistics. Inaction and indifference will only result in more increases in highway deaths and injuries in the coming years.