WASHINGTON—The U.S. suffered 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015, up 7.2 percent from 2014, according to the latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The new report ended a five-decade trend in declining fatalities, NHTSA said. Traffic deaths rose across nearly every segment of the U.S. population, it said.
The last single-year traffic fatality increase of this magnitude was in 1966, when fatalities rose 8.1 percent from 1965, the agency said.
In 2005, the traffic death rate was 42,708, nearly 25 percent higher than in 2015, according to NHTSA. Seat belt use, reducing impaired driving, air bags and electronic stability control contributed to reducing traffic fatalities, it said.
However, job growth and low fuel prices led to increased driving in 2015, and that alone can contribute to higher fatality rates, according to NHTSA. Vehicle miles traveled increased 3.5 percent in 2015 over 2014, the largest increase in nearly 25 years, the agency said.
NHTSA, the White House and the Department of Transportation have issued a call to action to involve a wide range of stakeholders in helping determine the cause of the increase, NHTSA said.
NHTSA will release its Fatality Analysis Reporting System with safety partners, state and local officials, technologists, data scientists, policy experts and private sector partners, the agency said.
“We're directly soliciting your help to better understand what these data are telling us,” said a joint statement by NHTSA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.