We’ve posted recently about the rise in Tennessee traffic deaths this year. It turns out that we are not alone: The overall death rate from traffic crashes in the U.S. rose 13.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same time last year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 7,630 traffic deaths in the first quarter, compared to 6,720 during the same period in 2011.
The rise in fatal accidents is a bit puzzling since the numbers have been falling steadily over the last few years. As safety laws have been tweaked and robust technology has reduced car accident injuries, or prevented crashes outright, the number of deaths fell to a 60-year-low recently.
So, why the spike this year? Transportation officials say that it’s too early to point to a cause, but many people suspect the warmer than average winter might have something to do with it. It’s common knowledge that people travel on the roads more if the weather is nicer. Indeed, Americans reportedly drove 9.7 billion more miles in the first part of 2012 than last year, a 1.4 percent increase.
Hopefully the trend will reverse and we’ll see fewer deaths in the second half of the year. While the uptick in deaths is alarming to say the least, the total is far less than in some years past, particularly in the 1970s. In 1972, for example, there were 54,589 people killed in traffic crashes nationwide, the deadliest year on record.
Source: CNN, “U.S. traffic fatalities soar 13.5 percent in first quarter of 2012,” Jim Barnett, July 23, 2012
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