Total VMT and fatalities are up

By Bill Holloway

Total 2015 U.S. motor vehicle travel is expected to reach record levels, and crash-related fatalities have been climbing as well.

According to a new post in Fastlane, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Transportation, based on data through last November, it is likely that total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. set a new record high for the year. 2015’s projected total of 3.1 trillion VMT will exceed the previous high, set in 2007. However, as shown in Doug Short’s recent analysis, when adjusted to account for the size of the U.S. population, which has continued to grow, the picture is quite different. Per capita VMT remains down nearly 6 percent from its 2005 peak.

While total crash-related fatalities are down significantly from their recent 2005 peak, an analysis conducted by the Kevin T. Fearn in the National Safety Council’s February 2016 newsletter found that traffic fatalities have been climbing alongside increasing VMT over the last few years.  Fearn’s comparison of state motor vehicle deaths during the first nine months of 2014 and 2015 shows total U.S. traffic fatalities for 2015 on track to exceed 2014 by 10 percent, much greater than the 3.5 percent growth in VMT during this period according to FHWA data.

Bill Holloway is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.