Roadway deaths in the United States rose 5.3 percent last year, to 34,080. It is the first year there has been an increase in traffic fatalities since 2005, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roadway deaths had steadily decreased each year since 2005, dropping by about 26 percent from 2005 to 2011, when 32,367 people died on the nation’s roads.
The jump had been widely expected, as more people are taking to the roadways as the economy improves. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that vehicle miles traveled in 2012 increased by 9.1 billion miles -- a 0.3 percent rise. The fatality rate -- which is number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled -- is projected to rise to 1.16 (from 1.10).
Crash fatalities were up for every quarter of 2012 compared with 2011, the NHTSA says. The estimate did not provide a breakdown of fatalities among roadway users.
“The news, while disheartening, is not surprising,” said Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “With the improving economy and historically low levels of motor vehicle deaths in recent years, we expected deaths to increase. Highway deaths have been declining significantly in recent years.”
Harsha said her organization is especially concerned about increasing road deaths among motorcyclists. The group recently projected that about 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012, which would be a 14.7 percent jump over the previous year -- the biggest percentage increase ever. “A comprehensive strategy is needed to keep motorcyclists safe,” she said. “Most crucial in this strategy are universal helmet laws, which 31 states currently lack.”
The region with the biggest percentage increase in road deaths was the Northeast -- comprising Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut; traffic fatalities in the region jumped more than 15 percent.
NHTSA is continuing to gather data on crash deaths from police reports and other sources, but its early estimates are usually an accurate projection.
With the economy improving, we agree that this news is not surprising. In the last few years, the number of accidents in Arizona has dropped significantly.
When people don’t have as much to spend, they don’t got out as much—shopping, meals, entertainment, etc… . Less cars on the road means less traffic interaction and less accidents.
While an improved economy is certainly welcome, no one relishes the mishaps and tragedies that come with it.
We all need to keep in mind that an accident can happen at any time. Presently, teaching my 15 year old to drive, I am getting a great refresher course on watching traffic and defensive driving. Maybe we all need a refresher course.