U.S. motor vehicle deaths up 8% in 2015; highest increase in 50 years

Updated Mar 10, 2016

Traffic on highwayAbout 38,300 people died in U.S. motor vehicle accidents in 2015. That’s an 8 percent increase over 2014 and marks the largest rise in half a century.

It was the deadliest driving year since 2008, according to the National Safety Council. The NSC attributes much of the rise in traffic fatalities to a better economy and lower gas prices though the 8 percent increase compares to only a 3.5 percent increase in the amount of miles traveled.

“These numbers are serving notice: Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted,” NSC president and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said. “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. Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016.”

Some states saw a much more significant increase in 2015 with Oregon seeing 27 percent more vehicle deaths. The NSC also pointed out significant increases in Georgia at 22 percent, Florida at 18 percent and South Carolina at 16 percent.

While only 13 states saw a decrease in vehicle deaths, New Mexico saw the largest at 20 percent while Kansas had a decrease of 7 percent and New Jersey saw traffic deaths fall 2 percent.

The NSC recommended the following measures to help stay safe while operating a motor vehicle:

  • Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip
  • Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation
  • Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
  • Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits, as teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. My Car Does What can help drivers understand features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.