An annual report released last week by the National Safety Council (NSC) indicates that the motor vehicle death rate in 2015 was 8% higher than in 2014. The death rate’s increase was a surprise given that rates since 2012 have been decreasing or remained flat.

The NSC, a nonprofit organization which aims to reduce unintentional injuries, reported that the motor vehicle death rate has outpaced the overall population death rate, which increased 7% in 2015.

The Cost of Lives and Livelihoods

Motor vehicle deaths cost Americans over $412 billion last year – a staggering figure that includes victims’ income losses, healthcare, employer costs, and property damage. To put it in perspective, the NFL, the world’s most successful sports league, recorded a mere $12 billion in revenue in 2015.

Why Are Auto Accident Deaths Increasing?

The NSC suggests that the spike in deaths in 2015 was caused by lower gasoline prices and an improved economy. Travel and commutes by car increase when economic times are good.

However, more driving can’t completely account for the increased rate of death. Deaths per mile only increased 5% over the same time period. So what’s really causing such a high motor vehicle death rate?

The Real Reasons for the High Death Rate Are Preventable

If cars are getting safer, what does the increase in driving deaths mean? It means that we’re not driving as safely as we used to. The NCS’s Injury Facts 2015 report concludes that the three largest contributors to fatal accidents are:

  1. Alcohol (30.8%)
  2. Speeding (30%)
  3. Distracted driving (26%)

All three of these causes are preventable. Distracted driving continues to be a problem despite efforts by safety councils, police agencies, and insurance companies to discourage it. According to a 2015 State Farm survey, 36% of drivers confess to reading or sending text messages while driving.

Safer Driving

While it’s possible that the introduction of autonomous cars will help reduce the motor vehicle death rate, you can take steps to protect yourself now. The NCS recommends never using a smartphone while driving (even hands-free), educating yourself about your car’s safety features, and helping younger drivers to learn safe driving habits.


If you’ve lost a loved one in an auto accident that may have been preventable, consult one of our personal injury lawyers. You may be entitled to compensation.