The death toll in Connecticut from motor vehicle accidents increased 14 percent in 2015 from the previous year, consistent with a nationwide increase but higher than the national average. The increase in Connecticut ranked the state tied for 14th in the percentage increase in motor vehicle deaths from 2014 to 2015. Nationally, 2015 saw the largest single-year percent increase in motor vehicle deaths since 1966. Estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC) show an 8 percent increase in 2015 compared with 2014 – with substantial changes in some states, including Connecticut. There were 283 motor-vehicle related deaths in Connecticut last year, compared with 249 in 2014 and 276 in 2013.
While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are likely at the core of the trend. The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million were seriously injured, meaning 2015 likely was the deadliest driving year since 2008. The annual total of motor vehicle fatalities for 2014 was 35,398.
Over the last year at the state level, the National Safety Council estimates Vermont (30 percent), Oregon (27 percent), New Hampshire (24 percent), Georgia (22 percent), Washington (21 percent) and Florida (18 percent) experienced the largest percentage increase in fatalities, while only 13 states showed improvement. Among them were New Mexico (-20 percent), Kansas (-7 percent) and New Jersey (-2 percent).
Increases were also in Arizona (15%), Colorado (17%), Idaho (17%), Montana (17%), Maine (16%), Maryland (16%), and South Carolina (16%). Also seeing 14 percent increases along with Connecticut were Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada.
“These numbers are serving notice: Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements. Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016.”
From 2013 and 2015, Connecticut had a 3 percent increase in traffic fatalities, according to the data.
The estimated cost of motor-vehicle deaths, injuries, and property damage in 2015 was $412.1 billion, according to NSC. The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs, and property damage.
The estimate is subject to slight increases or decreases as data mature, according to the National Safety Council. NSC has issued annual traffic fatality estimates since 1921. Over the last three years, preliminary estimates have fallen within 1 percent of final counts.
Average gas prices were 28 percent lower in 2015 than in 2014 and are projected to continue dropping this year, making driving more affordable for many Americans, NSC pointed out, noting that the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a 3.5 percent increase in the number of miles driven in 2015 compared to 2014.
To help ensure safety, the National Safety Council recommends drivers:
- Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip
- Designate an alcohol and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
- Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free
- Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits, as teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers
- Learn about vehicle safety systems and how to use them, including features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.
Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council, nsc.org, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.