Recently, the NHTSA released estimates regarding the number of traffic fatalities in 2012. While the numbers have not yet been finalized, the news is not good. The NHTSA data shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of people who died in car wrecks over the course of the year. This is the first year-to-year increase since 2005.
Our Birmingham accident lawyers know that the number of traffic fatalities has been steadily declining over the past six years, decreasing as much as 26 percent from near-record highs in 2005 up through 2011. Unfortunately, the 2012 increase indicates that it may be difficult to continue this downward trend. Still, if every driver makes a commitment to staying safe and if states continue to improve their driving regulations and safety enforcement, hopefully the traffic fatality rates can get back on the decline for 2013 and beyond.
Preliminary Data Shows Significant Increase in Traffic Fatalities
According to the NHTSA’s preliminary data, an estimated 34,080 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2012 as compared with just 32,367 in 2011. This would mean that the number of people killed in car accidents over the course of 2012 increased around 5.3 percent when compared with 2011.
The biggest increases occurred in the first and second quarters of the year, with 12.6 percent more fatalities in the first quarter and 5.3 percent more fatalities in the second quarter of the year as compared with 2011. The number of estimated vehicle miles traveled also increased slightly during this time but not enough to explain the rise in the number of traffic fatalities that occurred.
NHTSA has stressed that it is too soon to speculate about the causes of this uptick in car accident deaths. However, NHTSA did warn that the multi-year decline set a very low baseline, which makes it challenging for the number of fatalities to stay at these record lows and which makes it less likely for the number of fatalities to continue to trend downward.
Reducing Traffic Fatalities
Until the NHTSA has determined the likely causes of the increase in fatalities from 2011 to 2012, it will be difficult to assess what steps to take in order to try to reverse this troubling increase traffic deaths.
Changing demographics, including the aging of the population, could be one factor that helps to explain the increase in deaths. An improving economy allowing for increased travel and for drivers to spend more on gas could also potentially be explanations for why the number of deaths has increased. However, the NHTSA will need to evaluate the demographic data and the data on car accident causes in order to draw conclusions about why there were more deaths than the prior year.
Regardless of what the NHTSA determines was the reason for the uptick in fatalities, every driver can help to bring these numbers down by making a commitment to always exhibit caution when driving and to always obey driver safety rules.
Alabama Traffic Accidents a Risk Over Memorial Day Holiday, Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, May 24, 2013.