According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the first quarter of 2012 saw a significant increase in car accident deaths in comparison to the same time period in 2011. The NHTSA is not yet sure of the reason for the unprecedented jump, but it points toward additional data indicating a coordinating increase in the number of miles driven during the time period in question.
Specifically, the NHTSA estimates that about 7,600 people were killed in car accidents during the first three months of 2010. This number marks a 13.5 percent increase from the first quarter of 2011, when there were 6,720 crash deaths. If the current estimate is accurate, the increase would represent the second biggest year-to-year quarterly increase in traffic fatalities in more than 35 years.
Traffic safety officials say that there were simply more opportunities for fatal car accidents in the first quarter of 2012 than the previous year. This is because drivers traveled about 9.7 billion more miles this year than in 2011, marking a 1.4 percent increase. There are many possible reasons for this rise. A milder winter means that more people were able and willing to get behind the wheel during the traditionally snowy months. Further, as the U.S. works to dig itself out of the aftereffects of the economic recession, it is possible that more people have started to go back to work.
Whatever the reason, the increase represents a significant shift in traffic death statistics, marking the first year since 2005 that car accident fatalities have increased. Hopefully, this trend does not continue in the remainder of 2012 or in the years to come.
Source: CNN, "U.S. traffic fatalities soar 13.5 percent in first quarter of 2012," Jim Barnett, July 23, 2012