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National Safety Council Reports Huge Jump in 2015 Traffic Fatalities

According to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council, 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, an 8 percent jump from 2014. In fact, the annual increase is the most in half a century. Note that the figure differs from NHTSA's.
February 22, 2016, 2pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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In addition to a record increase in fatalities, 4.4 million were seriously injured on U.S. roads, states the press release, making "2015 likely the deadliest driving year since 2008."

The estimate is subject to slight increases or decreases as data mature. National Safety Council (NSC) has issued annual traffic fatality estimates since 1921. Over the last three years, preliminary estimates have fallen within 1% of final counts.

"The National Safety Council uses National Center for Health Statistics data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because it includes fatalities that occur on non-public roads, whereas the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [(NHTSA) a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation] data includes only fatalities on public roads," stated Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at NSC, in an email.

"In addition CDC counts deaths that occur within 12 months of the crash while NHTSA's cutoff is 30 days," stated Kolosh. "We want to include the most accurate and comprehensive data as possible in our estimate." 

According to NHTSA estimates, traffic deaths "show a steep 9.3 percent increase for the first nine months of 2015." [Also posted here.] NHTSA has yet to issue its complete 2015 report. 

Different starting point for NHTSA and NSC

"NHTSA’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) figures for 2014 show 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, a 0.1-percent decrease from the previous year," states their November 24, 2015 press release. "An additional 2.3 million people were injured in crashes in 2014," notes the 2014 Crash Data Key Findings [PDF].

NSC reported that traffic fatalities totaled 35,398 for 2014, "a less than 0.5% increase from 2013," in their supplemental estimate information [PDF]. Injuries also will likely show a major gap. "The National Safety Council defines 'serious injuries' as those requiring medical attention," notes their press release, which may explain the large figure (4.4 million) compared with NHTSA's 9-month figure of 2.3 million people

Finally, an appropriate reminder from Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC president and CEO. "Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements."

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Published on Friday, February 19, 2016 in National Safety Council
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