2016 was one of the deadliest in recent history in terms of traffic-related fatalities. As compared to 2015, fatalities rose 6% in 2016 to an estimated 40,200 according to the National Safety Council. 2015 was also one of the deadliest, with an increase in deaths over 2014. The last time fatalities were this high was in 2007 at 41,000.
The increase is attributed partially to an increase in driving, spurred on by low gas prices. Experts estimate that there was a 3% increase in driving. In the last three years, 13 states have increased speed limits on at least one of their interstate highways. A 5 mph increase from 70 mph to 75 mph means a vehicle has 15% more energy.
Driver distraction is also an increasing cause of accidents in the U.S. Human error is the cause of more than 90% of crashes, so the looming self-driving-car revolution will likely make a large difference. However, the safety features that are becoming more common in new vehicles—like emergency braking and lane departure assist—have not been enough to stem the large number of crashes and fatalities.
Learn more about the rise of traffic deaths in 2016.