More people killed in car crashes in 2016 than 2015, with 37,461 people who lost their lives in 2016

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More people killed in car crashes in 2016 than 2015, with 37,461 people who lost their lives in 2016

— A total of 37,461 people lost their lives in fatal vehicle crashes in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent compared to 2015.

The increased death toll occurred at a time when cars are equipped with more safety features than ever before, possibly giving consumers a false sense of their own security.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collected crash data from 50 states and the District of Columbia and found that death rates climbed due to alcohol, speeding and not wearing seat belts.

Distracted and drowsy driving fatalities allegedly decreased by 2.2 percent, but how those stats are collected leaves a lot to be desired. It's not always easy to determine if reading a text message was the cause of a fatal crash or if speed was the determining factor.

NHTSA says more passengers in light trucks and passenger cars died (23,714) in 2016 compared to 2015, an increase of 4.7 percent, while motorcyclist fatalities increased by 5.1 percent. The number of vehicle passengers and motorcyclists killed is the highest rate since 2008.

In addition, pedestrian fatalities didn't fare any better as NHTSA found a 9 percent increase in 2016 fatalities compared to 2015.

Bicyclists fatalities, or what NHTSA calls "pedalcyclists" fatalities, also increased in 2016, but only by 1.3 percent. However, the 840 pedalcyclists killed in 2016 is still the highest number since 1991.

The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2016 increased by 2.2 percent compared to 2015, and the overall fatality rate per 100 million VMT saw a 2.6 percent increase from the previous year.

Safety regulators also say that even with all the pressure on people not to drink and drive, drunk-driving deaths increased by 1.7 percent over 2015, topping out at 10,497 killed due to alcohol.

And then there are the advertising messages and laws about wearing seat belts, yet deaths that occurred to those not wearing seat belts increased by 4.6 percent, causing a total of 10,428 fatalities.

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