Last month, July 2016, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its ‘early estimate’ of traffic fatalities in 2015. Road Rules extracted the following salient points from this Brief Statistical Summary:
· An estimated 35,200 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, an increase of about 7.7% as compared to the 32,675 fatalities reported in 2014.
· If these projections are realized, fatalities will be at the highest level since 2008, when 37,423 fatalities were reported.
Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2015 increased by about 107.2 billion miles, or about a 3.5% increase.
Nevertheless, the increase in the fatalities numbers is still significant enough to affect the measure of fatality rates per 100 million VMT, i.e.:
The fatality rate for 2015 increased to 1.12 fatalities/100 million VMT, up from 1.08 fatalities/100 million VMT in 2014.
So, in summary:
· The fourth quarter of 2015 represents the fifth consecutive quarter with year-to-year increases in fatalities as well as the fatality rate.
· The magnitude of the increases has also been rising up to the 11% increase in the third quarter of 2015.
· Fatalities are projected to have increased by 4.7% during the fourth quarter of 2015.
Preliminary analysis of these changes reveals:
· Significant increases in motorcyclist and non-occupant (pedestrian and cyclist) deaths for the Nation in 2015 as compared to 2014.
· Also, 9 out of 10 NHTSA Regions are estimated to have had increases in fatalities in 2015 as compared to 2014.
Last week, ICBC, in connection with its application to the BC Utilities Commission for a 4.9% increase to its basic auto insurance rates, and a 2.8% increase to its optional comprehensive coverage (for theft and vandalism and non-crash related vehicle damage) revealed the following similarly trending statistics:
· Since 2013, the number of crashes across BC has climbed by 15% to 300,000 last year.
· The number of vehicles on our roads in 2015 went through three million for the first time ever to 3.1 million vehicles, up 10 % from 2011.
Mark Blucher, ICBC’s president and CEO underscored the effect of these increases on the need for the rate increase saying, “It’s the rapid increase in the number of crashes, it’s more vehicle damage and injury claims being reported—[up 11%] and that’s being compounded by higher vehicle repair and injury claims costs.” He also pointed out the significant decrease in the usual relief provided by ICBC’s investment income —$44 million midway through 2016 compared to $920 million at the end of 2015— due to “increasingly challenging investment markets and historically low-interest rates.”
It would seem that to avoid rate hikes, BC road-users, in general, need to do better. That said, however, there does seem to be something about the Pacific North-West. Of the nine out of 10 NHSTA regions experiencing fatality increases in 2015, the region with the highest percentage increase (+20%!) is just across our borders, namely the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. No convincing explanations have been suggested at this point.