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Highway deaths remain largest portion of transportation fatalities

Number of medium- and heavy-duty truck drivers killed while on the job increased in 2016 as well, NTSB noted.

As the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) begins developing its strategic plan for fiscal years 2018 through 2022 – aiming as always to find ways to improve transportation safety – it is emphasizing that highway deaths remain the largest single component of transportation-related fatalities, far exceeding those in the railroad, aviation, marine, and pipeline sectors.

Safety data indicates 39,339 people lost their lives in transportation accidents in 2016 compared to 37,309 who died in 2015, with highway fatalities accounting for 95% of all transportation fatalities last year.

Some 2,030 more people died in transportation accidents in 2016 compared to 2015 – including 57 more medium- and heavy-duty truck drivers, according to NTSB’s numbers.

In 2016, 722 medium- and heavy-duty truck drivers were killed on the job, up from 665 back in 2015, the agency said.

"Unfortunately, we continue to see increases in transportation fatalities," noted Robert Sumwalt, NTSB’s chairman. "We can do more – we must do more – to eliminate the completely preventable accidents that claim so many lives each year.”

He added that the 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 what Sumwalt described as an “alarming trend” in terms of rising transportation-related deaths.

Many of those recommendations directly impact trucking, especially where collision mitigation technology is concerned.

The NTSB also detailed transportation fatality statistics for 2016 by sector:

  • S. roadway 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 in 2016, from 688 to 730. Recreational boating accounted for nearly 96% of those 730 marine fatalities.
  • Aviation deaths decreased slightly from 416 in 2015 to 412 in 2016. Nearly 94% of aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents.
  • Air taxi fatalities decreased from 27 in 2015 to 19 in 2016.

Preliminary aviation accident statistics also highlighted an overall decline in the number of U.S. registered civil aviation accidents. 

Most notably, the number of fatal general aviation accidents decreased to 213 in 2016, resulting in the fatal accident rate dropping below one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for the first time in 50 years, NTSB added.

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