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Less than one in three traffic fatalities involves a drunk driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the latest available traffic fatality statistics which showed an increase in the overall number of people killed on US roadways and in a separate report the number of lives saved by restraint use and 21-year old minimum drinking age laws. In 2015, 35,092 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, an increase of 7.2 percent from 32,744 in 2014, representing the largest single-year percentage increase in nearly 50 years. Additionally, NHTSA reported an estimated 19,089 lives were saved as a result of the use of child restraints, seat belts, frontal air bags, motorcycle helmets and minimum age drinking laws.

It has been noted that during times of economic recovery traffic fatalities tend to increase – in 2015 the US experienced lower gas prices, decreasing unemployment rates and increasing vehicle miles traveled. Thus it is not surprising that fatalities in almost all segments increased from 2014 to 2015. Specifically, vehicle miles traveled increased 3.5 percent, fatalities in distracted driving crashes increased 8.8 percent, overall traffic fatalities increased 7.2 percent, drunk driving fatalities increased 3.2 percent and speeding-related fatalities increased 3 percent; drowsy driving fatalities decreased 3.2 percent. Though the most recent numbers are not yet available NHTSA’s most recent National Roadside Survey showed a significant increase in drug-impaired driving.

DD Deaths 2015-01

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More specifically, drunk driving fatalities increased from 9,943 in 2014 to 10,265 in 2015, accounting for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities. Despite the noted increase in 2015 the long-term trend remains downward, with drunk driving fatalities declining 24 percent over the past decade and 51 percent since record keeping began in 1982.

Traffic Fatalities 2015

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For a quarter century Responsibility.org has been leading the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking – two of society’s top safety concerns. The latest statistics remind us there is still more work to be done to keep our roads free from impaired drivers. Any life lost in a traffic fatality is one too many especially at the hands of preventable human choices behind the wheel such as distracted driving, drowsy driving, drugged driving or drunk driving. Together, we can #EndImpairedDriving.

Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research at Responsibility.org, and her husband are proud parents of two college age children. In her free time she enjoys running and swimming and occasionally competing in triathlons as well as volunteering in her community.

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