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Traffic Fatalities Rise In 2012 For The First Time In Years

Traffic AccidentEarly estimates from The National Safety Council (NSC) show that last year’s vehicle-related death rate jumped in 2012 which was the first time that figure has gone up since 2005.

The report confirms preliminary findings from the federal government who also found that deaths from car crashes were up, reversing a trend that has seen car accident deaths dropping in the last few years.  

Deaths are Headed up in Many Different Categories

The NSC estimates that there were 36,200 motor-vehicle deaths in 2012, a 5 percent increase from 2011 which saw 34,600 deaths.

The NSC figures show increases in both deaths per mile traveled as well as deaths per person. There were 1.23 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled and 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a four percent increase from 2011.

Costs from car accident related deaths grew as well last year. Losses of workplace productivity, wages, medical expenses and property damage hit $276.6 billion, a 5 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. 

According to the NSC some of the increase can be attributed to American motorists driving more miles which is a trend that started in December of 2011. An improving economy could be the reason that Americans are driving more, both locally and on vacations.

The Feds Agree

This is the first increase in total deaths on the roadways since 2004-2005. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released estimates last year for the number of traffic deaths in the first three quarters of 2012. The numbers showed a 7.1 percent increase from the same time period in 2011. This would be the biggest increase since 1975.

The biggest jump was a 13 percent in fatality numbers in the first quarter of 2012 when compared to 2012. Prior to 2012, the number of deaths had fallen significantly. In 2011, roadway deaths had dropped a full 2 percent from the already record low levels in 2010. 

Traffic deaths had declined for 17 straight quarters according to the NHTSA which is the longest decline in the past three decades. The NHTSA is not ready to speculate on the reasons for the jump in the first three quarters of 2012 but said it may partially be due to the fact that the numbers are being compared to an “unprecedented low baseline figure.”

The NSC said its figures could not be directly compared to the NHTSA’s number because their numbers count deaths that occurred within a longer time frame after the car accident.

Safety Experts are Concerned

Experts are voicing concern over the jump in the traffic deaths. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said in a press release that the latest findings were a “reminder that safety gains are not inevitable.”

Experts say that improvements in both vehicle design and standard safety features have helped reduce the number of fatalities but those gains are being threatened by teen driving safety as well as distracted driving. 

A number of studies have shown that teenage drivers are more likely to crash than any other driving group. Distracted driving is one big reason that teens tend to crash and teen’s susceptibility to these types of driving habits could be leading to higher death rates.

Safety experts are advocating for tougher teen driving laws as well as increased enforcement of existing laws.

Recent figures show that vehicle death rates increased in 2012, the first such increase since 2006. Teen driver safety and distracted driving are cited as possible reasons for the increase.