We can’t blame it all on Pokemon Go. Last year, before the mad Pokémon craze began, marks the highest traffic death rate on America’s roads in years. 35,092 people died on U.S. roads in 2015 — that’s a 7.2 percent spike from 2014 and the highest number since 2008.
So if it’s not the crazy Pokémon game what’s going on? The U.S. government wants to find out. The Obama administration issued an “unprecedented call to action” this week. It’s asking researchers and safety experts to come together and figure out why traffic deaths are rising in virtually every segment of the population.
“Solving this problem will take teamwork, so we’re issuing a call to action and asking researchers, safety experts, data scientists and the public to analyze the fatality data and help find ways to prevent these tragedies,” says Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Currently, U.S. researches pin it partially on lower gas prices. When it costs less to drive, more people do. Add to that, the lower prices combine with the rise in job growth. That means more commuters with the highest rate of miles driven in 25 years.
Last year’s total deaths – 35,092 – don’t match the record high from 2005 – with 42,708 fatalities that year – but it does mark the highest rise in nearly 50 years. The last time the rate rose at such a fast year-over-year rate was back in 1966. Then the rate rose 8.1 percent for a total of around 51,000 deaths. Two years later the government passed the seat belt laws.
Sadly, lack of seat belt use appears to still be some of the problem. About half of the deaths happened to people who weren’t buckled up. The rate of deaths to people without safety belts rose 4.9 percent.
Aside from not wearing a seatbelt, the primary causes went to drunk driving and speeding. A third of the fatal accidents involved a drunk driver and/or speeding. The drunk driving death rate rose 3.2 percent.
Even though Pokemon Go wasn’t around during the data collection, distracted driving rose more than any of the other categories. It even outpaced the rise in the death rate rising by 8.8 percent.
The primary cause of traffic deaths remains driver error. The latest collected info from 2014 shows that only 1 percent of U.S. traffic deaths are caused by vehicle defects.