Transportation-related deaths in the U.S. increased across nearly all forms of transportation in 2016, but it’s the rising number of highway deaths that alarm safety experts.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 2,030 more people died in transportation-related accidents in 2016 than in 2015, with highway fatalities accounting for 95 percent of all the transportation deaths in 2016.
NTSB data shows that 39,339 people were killed in transportation-related accidents last year, up from 37,309 deaths the previous year. In addition to the rise in highway deaths, fatalities also increased in the marine and railroad sectors. Only aviation deaths decreased in 2016, with four fewer deaths than in 2015.
“Unfortunately, we continue to see increases in transportation fatalities,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a statement. “We can do more, we must do more, to eliminate the completely preventable accidents that claim so many lives each year.”
The NTSB, which dispatches investigators across the country to probe transportation-related accidents, maintains that most transportation-related deaths are preventable with the implementation of better technology and oversight.
While the NTSB recommends safety improvements to reduce transportation-related deaths based on its findings, federal lawmakers and regulators aren’t obligated to adopt the board’s recommendations.
“Implementation of the 315 open safety recommendations associated with the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements has the greatest potential to reverse this alarming trend,” Mr. Sumwalt said.
NTSB accident data for 2016 shows that:
- Highway deaths increased from 35,485 in 2015 to 37,461 in 2016. Fatalities in passenger vehicles were up from 12,761 in 2015 to 13,412 in 2016.
- Railroad deaths increased from 708 to 733.
- Marine deaths increased from 688 to 730, with recreational boating accidents accounting for almost 96 percent of the 730 fatalities.
- Just four fewer people died in aviation-related accidents in 2016; there were 416 deaths in 2015 and 412 deaths in 2016. Nearly 94 percent of aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents. Although it may seem like a statistically insignificant decrease, the NTSB said the fatal accident rate for general aviation dropped below one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for the first time in 50 years.