Deadly car crashes hit a 9-year high

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - MONEY - Nathan Bomey

Deadly ve­hi­cle crashes spiked in the USA for a sec­ond con­sc­u­tive year in 2016, hit­ting a nineyear high de­spite the adop­tion of new safety fea­tures and in­vest­ments in par­tially self-driv­ing cars.

Key rea­sons: speed­ing, not wear­ing seat belts and a rise in mo­tor­cy­cle deaths.

Car ac­ci­dents killed 37,461 peo­ple in 2016, up 5.6% from 2015, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional High­way Traffic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion data re­leased Friday.

The up­ward trend marks a re­ver­sal after fa­tal­i­ties fell in six of the seven years from 2007 to 2014. Deaths are up from an all­time low of 32,744 in 2014.

Though ve­hi­cle safety tech­nol­ogy is bet­ter than ever, other fac­tors have con­trib­uted to the in­crease.

In pre­vi­ous years, dis­tracted driv­ing was a grow­ing cul­prit. In 2016, dis­tracted driv­ing deaths fell 2.2% to 3,450, ac­cord­ing to the NHTSA.

The in­crease in deaths in 2016 was largely at­trib­ut­able to other mis­takes by driv­ers and pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing a 4% in­crease in speed­ing deaths and a 4.6% in­crease in fa­tal­i­ties due to un­belted pas­sen­gers.

The NHTSA re­ported a 5.1% in­crease in mo­tor­cy­cle deaths.

An­other trend was a 9% jump in pedes­trian deaths. Drunken driv­ing deaths rose 1.7%.

In some crashes, mul­ti­ple fac­tors were blamed.

The NHTSA said it “con­tin­ues to work closely with its state and lo­cal part­ners, law en­force­ment agen­cies” and oth­ers “to help ad­dress the hu­man choices” that are blamed for 94% of se­ri­ous crashes.

The trends un­der­score why the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and au­tomak­ers are push­ing for self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles. In 2016, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion set a goal of elim­i­nat­ing road­way deaths within 30 years, ex­pect­ing self-driv­ing cars to play a key role.

The last year in which crash deaths were higher was 2007, when 41,259 were killed.

Safety ad­vances such as au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, rearview cam­eras, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and ad­vanced air bags have helped im­prove car safety.

Other fea­tures have been blamed for in­creas­ing dis­trac­tion. A AAA study re­leased Thurs­day blamed ve­hi­cle touch-screen sys­tems for al­low­ing driv­ers to use the sys­tems while in mo­tion.

RINGO H.W. CHIU/AP

Car ac­ci­dents killed 37,461 peo­ple in 2016, up 5.6 per­cent from 2015.

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