Death Toll Jumps on U.S. Roadways in 2012

Not long after the announcement that 2011 saw a significant decline in driving fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that roadway deaths are on the rise thus far in 2012. The NHTSA announced that traffic fatalities have risen by a staggering 13.5% in quarter one of this year, rising from 6,720 to 7,360 deaths. In terms of deaths per 100 million miles traveled, the figure jumped from 0.98, to 1.10. The news is even worse according to the National Safety Council, who declared there were 8,170 deaths during the first three months of 2012, as opposed to the 7,270 over the same period last year.

For the NHTSA, the estimate also represents the second largest quarterly jump in traffic deaths since the organization began tracking deaths on a quarterly deaths in 1975, with the highest total occurring in 1979. The figure also provides an end to an era, marking the first time in seven years that traffic fatalities have risen. Traffic deaths fell by 1.7% in 2011 to 32,310. The number marked lowest figure since 1949. The year also marked a 26% in traffic fatalities from 2005, when the figure hit 42,708.

While Barbara Harsha, the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, called the spike in deaths, "unacceptable," she was also quick to point out that it is too early to draw definite conclusions about the data, and mentioned that she felt that the increases may have been partially a result of a strengthening economy and an unusually warm winter.

The rise in deaths could be due in part to an unusually warm winter across the country, which put more drivers on the road than usual. Driving fatalities over the first three months of the year are usually lower compared to the last nine months because people drive less during harsh winter weather.

Additionally, Americans are spending more time on the roads thanks to a strengthening economy. The organization note that vehicle travel increased by about 9.7 billion miles, or 1.4%, in the first three months as well. The increase also comes on the heels of roadway travel hitting its lowest mark since 2003 last year, when drivers totaled 2.963 trillion miles, which was down 1.2% from 2010 as well. One of the things that made last year's findings so significant was that the Federal Highway Administration showed that vehicle miles traveled dropped by 35.7 billion miles, about 1.2%, from 2010 to 2011.

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