More Americans Died Getting Around Last Year, Most on U.S. Highways

Data shows 39,339 were killed in mostly preventable transportation accidents in 2016, up by 2,030, but with aviation fatalities showing a slight dip.

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Of the 39,339 people killed in U.S. transportation accidents in 2016, 95 percent involved highway fatalities, according to numbers released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The overwhelming majority of the fatalities reported were preventable, the agency stressed.

The nation can and must do more "to eliminate the completely preventable accidents that claim so many lives each year," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a statement. Implementing safety improvements recommended by the NTSB hold "the greatest potential to reverse this alarming trend," he added.

Since 1990, the NTSB has issued a list of its most wanted safety improvements, with the current recommendations calling for steps that include increased implementation of collision-avoidance technologies available today, that the agency says would save lives when human error occurs. 

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Overall, 2,030 more people died in transportation accidents last year than in 2015, when 37,309 perished, according to the federal agency.

Year-to-year increases were seen in highway fatalities and in marine and railroad accidents, said the NTSB, which added that aviation fatalities dipped slightly.

Deaths on U.S. roadways increased from 35,485 in 2015 to 37,461 in 2016, with fatalities in passenger vehicles rising from 12,761 in 2015 to 13,412 last year, the NTSB said. Railroad fatalities rose in 2016, from 688 to 730, with recreational boating accounting for almost 96 percent of those marine deaths. 

Aviation deaths fell from 416 in 2015 to 412 last year, with nearly 94 percent of aviation deaths occurring in general flight accidents, according to the NTSB. Air taxi fatalities fell from 27 in 2015 to 19 last year.

Preliminary aviation accident statistics released Tuesday show an overall drop in U.S. registered civil aviation accidents. The number of fatal general aviation accidents fell to 213 in 2016, resulting in the fatal accident rate declining below one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for the first time in 50 years.