Traffic Fatalities Spike for First Time in Four Years

July 23, 2012

Slow down sign from

Good weather and high economy play significant roles in the caution a driver takes on the road.

July 23, 2012 — For the first time in years, traffic fatalities may be on the rise.  The US government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975. Since then, there has been a notable and reassuring decline in automobile-related deaths, specifically in the past four years. Safety initiatives and research have helped curtail many practices and situations that lead to accidental deaths — but this trend seems to be reversing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated yesterday that an estimated 7,630 people died in crashes on roads throughout the United States in the first three months of 2012, a 13.5 increase from last year’s 6,720 in the same time span, from January through March 2012. This is up nearly 1,000 deaths from 2011. If this trend continues, this increase will be the second largest yearly increase since 1975 and will end a four-year streak of decreasing fatalities.

While this number is a preliminary estimate, the Traffic Safety Administration stated that revisions don’t typically change dramatically. If this is true, the increase in road traffic fatalities from 2011 to 2012 would be the second largest since the administration began recording vehicular deaths in 1975. This increase comes after four years of steady decline in traffic deaths. According to a statement released last May by the safety administration, last year saw the lowest amount of traffic deaths in six decades. Additionally, the 2011 rate of deaths per miles driven was the lowest it had ever been since 1921.

Don’t forget to drive safely even when a calm road or high spirits make you feel protected. (via

The increase, while disappointing, is not unprecedented. The increase in deaths per miles driven comes from a simultaneous rise in miles driven by individual motorists by 1.4 percent since last year. While it is difficult to say exactly what has caused this rise in vehicular fatalities, some analysts argue that a combination of a mild winter and a recovering economy have put more people on the roads than in previous years. People have the tendency to drive more when the economy is high, and pay less attention to unforeseen dangers when the weather is bright.

The safety administration acknowledges that there have been many initiatives to decrease traffic-related fatalities.  Most have been highly effective, as the increased efforts to promote attentiveness and safety on the road are a leading contributor to decreased fatalities in the past years.  Of course, with the baseline of deaths steadily dropping, it is not entirely uncommon to see a slight spike in accident rates.  With an unprecedented low in traffic deaths in 2011, a rise in fatalities was not surprising for safety analysts.  As vehicle traffic increases, the importance of staying attentive while driving is maximized.

– K. Howitt and S. Walsh

Category: News

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