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Record increase in car accident deaths in first half of 2012

According to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents increased significantly in the first six months of 2012. Officials are not yet sure of the reason for the jump, but they reportedly believe that the economy and the job market may be partially to blame for both the historic declines in traffic fatalities in previous years and this year's large increase.

Specifically, the NHTSA's statistical projection has estimated that 16,290 people were killed in car accidents from January to June of 2012, a nine percent from the first half of 2011, which saw 14,950 fatalities. That jump marked the largest increase in crash deaths during the first half of any year since the agency began collecting traffic fatality data in 1975.

It is possible, however, that the nine percent jump may be a bit misleading. Car accident fatalities have reached historic lows in the last few years. In fact, traffic deaths fell a staggering 27 percent from the high of 20,500 fatalities during the first six months of 2006 to the 14,950 deaths in 2011. Officials believe that the economy is largely responsible for that decline. Simply, fewer people were working or could afford to travel, so there were less vehicles on the road.

This may also be why traffic deaths seem to have increased this year. As the employment rate rises, more people are getting back on the road. This theory appears to be supported by recent data from the Federal Highway Administration, which found that the number of vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2012 increased by 1.1 percent, or 15.6 billion total miles.

Source: CNN, "Traffic fatalities up 9% in first half of 2012," Jim Barnett, Sept. 28, 2012

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