WASHINGTON -- U.S. Transportation Department officials are mounting an effort to tackle the human causes behind traffic deaths, which after years of steady declines, increased sharply last year.
An estimated 26,000 people died in vehicle crashes in the first nine months of 2015, a 9.3 percent jump from a year earlier and the most since 2008. The increase was just the second increase in the January-to-September period over the past decade, and larger than the 5.3 percent increase in 2012, according to figures released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Full-year figures will be released this spring.
“We’re seeing red flags across the U.S., and we’re not waiting for the situation to develop further,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement. “It’s time to drive behavioral changes in traffic safety and that means taking on new initiatives and addressing persistent issues like drunk driving and failure to wear seat belts.”
Rosekind, an expert in human fatigue who came to NHTSA in December 2014 from the National Transportation Safety Board, has said addressing the human factors behind 94 percent of roadside deaths is one of his three main priorities in his final year at the helm of the agency. He launched that effort today with a daylong summit of researchers, law enforcement officials, lawmakers and mobility companies such as Uber and Lyft near Sacramento, Calif.
“The safety summits that NHTSA is kicking off today in Sacramento will provide us with new approaches to add to the tried-and-true tactics that we know save lives,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
NHTSA plans to hold similar summits elsewhere in the country this year followed by an event here in Washington.
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