Report: Big hike in car accident deaths so far this year

Deaths in traffic accidents soared during the first quarter of 2012, increasing 13.5 percent over the fatality rate a year before, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This indicated that approximately 7,630 Americans were killed in car accidents during January, February and March. During the same three months in 2011, approximately 6,720 people died in car accidents.

Historically, traffic safety officials say, the highway accident death rate of the first three months of the year is lower than in later quarters, since people often drive more in warmer weather. A relatively mild winter this year may have been a factor in increasing the accidental death rate, experts say.

This interpretation is bolstered by statistics indicating that the number of miles motorists drove in this year’s first quarter also went up by about 1.4 percent over the same period of time in 2011. However, this rise alone is not enough to account for the entire increase in highway deaths.

The new statistics were doubly disappointing to many because traffic fatalities bottomed out at a 60-year low in 2011. The number of deaths in the first quarter of the year has fallen every year since 2006, up until this year. Although, the news doesn’t seem quite as bad considering that the fatality rate during the first quarter of 2006 was 9,558.

Overall, there has been a great amount of progress made since 1972 when the number of car accident deaths reached their all-time peak of 54,589 lives lost. Factors contributing to the generally declining death rate included various campaigns to emphasize safe driving, as well as enhanced efforts at enforcing driving laws. In recent times, new campaigns have targeted distracted driving linked to such conduct as texting behind the wheel and talking on cellphones.

Source: CNN, “U.S. traffic fatalities soar 13.5 percent in first quarter of 2012,” Jim Barnett, July 23, 2012