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A total of 263 motorists died on Arkansas roads in the first six months of 2016, up 11 percent from the same period a year ago and helping fuel a national trend that, if unchecked, will see traffic fatalities in the United States exceed 40,000 for the first time in nine years, according to preliminary figures from the National Safety Council.

Photo by SOURCE: National Safety Council / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Graphs showing motor vehicle deaths.

Nationally, the federally chartered nonprofit organization estimated that 19,100 people have been killed on U.S. roads from January to the end of June, 9 percent more than at the six-month mark in 2015.

Another 2.2 million were estimated to be seriously injured, with the cost of all those deaths and injuries estimated at $205 billion, the council said.

The estimates, which continue an upward trend that began in 2014, prompted the council to predict 438 people will die on U.S. roads during the three-day Labor Day weekend, the highest fatality estimate the organization has issued for the holiday since 2008.

[FATAL WRECKS: Click here for complete coverage of deadly crashes in Arkansas]

"Our complacency is killing us," Deborah A.P. Hersman, the council president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "One hundred deaths every day should outrage us. Americans should demand change to prioritize safety actions and protect ourselves from one of the leading causes of preventable death."

The council, which has compiled the statistics annually since 1921, cited an improving economy and low fuel prices as factors in the rising number of road fatalities.

"While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are at the core of the trend," the organization said. "Average gas prices for the first six months of this year were 16 percent lower than 2015 levels, helping to fuel a 3.3 percent increase in the number of miles driven."

Federal Highway Administration data back up that assertion. U.S. driving reached 1.58 trillion miles in the first six months of 2016, beating the previous record of 1.54 trillion miles set last year. The agency said 1.58 trillion miles is about the equivalent of 250 round trips from Earth to Pluto.

In June alone, U.S. motorists racked up 283.3 billion miles, a slight increase from June 2015, the federal agency said. Arkansas motorists drove 1.039 million miles in June, a 3.2 percent increase over the same month last year.

"Travel is setting a record every month," said Mike Right, a spokesman for AAA, the national auto travel club, for the region that includes Arkansas. "Every month, we're traveling more than the month before."

The pace for traffic deaths in Arkansas in the first six months hasn't abated since the end of July. Through Tuesday, 303 reported crashes on Arkansas roadways have led to 337 deaths, according to preliminary crash data posted on the Arkansas State Police website. Of those crashes, 27 were double-fatalities, two were triple-fatalities and one resulted in four deaths. The remaining 273 crashes were single-fatality accidents.

Of the 303 crashes, 122 were on interstates or U.S. highways, according to the data. The others were on state highways, county roads or city streets.

There were 34 fatal crashes in January, 30 in February, 40 in March, 37 in April, 50 in May, 46 in June, 35 in July and 31 so far in August.

The council's safety recommendations to motorists include mostly tips for the driver: Make sure passengers use their seat belts, designate alcohol- and drug-free drivers, get plenty of sleep and take breaks to avoid fatigue, never use a cellphone and monitor teen driving habits as teens are three times more likely to crash than experienced drivers.

Drivers also should be familiar with, and use, their vehicle safety systems, such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras, the council said.

If the trend found in the first half of the 2016 remains through the rest of year, "total motor vehicle fatalities in 2016 could possibly exceed 40,000 for the first time in nine years," the council said.

But Right said the increase in fatalities statewide over the past two years came after a 10-year decline that saw annual roadway deaths fall from 652 in 2005 to 466 in 2014.

"Are we seeing a statistical anomaly or a trend?" he said. "That's difficult to say."

Metro on 08/24/2016

Print Headline: State's roadway fatalities rise 11%

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Archived Comments

  • Jfish
    August 24, 2016 at 7:15 a.m.

    Until we know the cause of most of the accidents, people will continue to be complacent. Let's see some numbers, what percentages are likely related to speeding, drinking, texting, etc.? Just saying wear your seat belt, don't drink and drive, get plenty of sleep, is not going to dramatically change things.

  • Marks
    August 24, 2016 at 8:46 a.m.

    Two words: Driver Reponsibility

  • cableguy
    August 24, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    I understand speeding is a cause of accidents but also driving much slower than the posted speed limit. People trying to pass slow moving vehicles causes a lot of head on accidents. We know cell phone use causes accidents, probably more than drunk driving does but for some crazy reason our lawmakers won't banned cell phone use while driving.

  • Morebeer
    August 24, 2016 at 9:24 a.m.

    Seems to me, anecdotally, that there are more distracted drivers out there drifting out of their lanes, sitting at green lights, going 15mph while talking on the phone.

  • hurricane46
    August 24, 2016 at 9:25 a.m.

    Texting and speeding, I-40 is a racetrack, I can drive to LR going almost 80 and hardly pass anyone, but I get passed by drivers going 90 to 95, where are the State Police?

  • Queen1976
    August 24, 2016 at 9:38 a.m.

    I came from Texas & you will get a $250 fine if you are driving slower than the flow of traffic, regardless of what the speed limit is & how fast/slow you are going. Arkansas made impeding traffic a law, however, I've NEVER seen or know of anyone that's been ticketed for driving slow in the fast lane. Slow drivers are as dangerous as the fast drivers. Move over or get pulled over!!

  • HarleyOwner
    August 24, 2016 at 11:24 a.m.

    All these vehicle deaths but yet all the attention is on deaths by guns which are far less.

  • Lcris76
    August 24, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

    Until we start inforcing the speed limits as stated by law, more deaths are coming. People swerving in and out of traffic on city streets and highways gets worse everyday. People just want to get where they are going without concern for others. Today on 430 I had a driver jump in front of me during the slow morning traffic. I saw two wrecks this morning. Troopers and police should be out slowing speeders down.

  • Morebeer
    August 24, 2016 at 12:54 p.m.

    Actually, Harley, the numbers are roughly the same every year for gun deaths and car deaths. It's usually around 30K for each. Looks like cars have it this year. Don't believe those stats peddled by rightwing bloggers. Queen, my issue is this: In heavy traffic, I may drive the speed limit on the left to avoid slower truck and other traffic on my right. So who sets the prevailing traffic speed? One driver who has to go 85 forces everyone in front of him to change lanes into a slower lane of traffic, and then merge again into the faster lane. If everyone drove approximately the same speed, there would be no need for lane changes, one of the more dangerous maneuvers on the interstate in traffic.

  • Foghorn
    August 24, 2016 at 1:18 p.m.

    Penalties should be far more punitive for DUI and texting (or using any technology) while driving. Until we institute Euopean-style penalties (i.e., permanent loss of driving priveleges for a 2nd DUI) nothing will change. Parents should also use technology to monitor their children's driving habits. Just go to Amazon and type in 'car speed monitor.' There are a variety of options to limit, monitor and be notified in realtime of a car's speed and location. There are also lots of elderly drivers who shouldn't be behind a wheel any longer. I don't like the idea of taking their freedom away but at a certain point, they are putting themselves and others at risk.

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