After a first quarter review last year, projections that traffic fatalities would rise in 2012 have become a reality. This reversal of declining fatality rates since 2005 represents the second largest year-to-year increase since National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began recording fatalities in 1975. The largest recorded year-to-year rise in highway fatalities was in 1979.
Published in the NHTSA pamphlet Traffic Safety Facts, the study estimates that 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2012. It is an increase of 5.3% over the 32,367 traffic deaths in 2011. Each quarter of 2012 also showed an increase in fatalities per quarter from 2011. The data did show a significant increase in the first quarter of 2012 with declining numbers of fatalities for each of the three subsequent quarters. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 2012 increased by 0.3%, or about 9.1 billion miles more than in 2011, perhaps a reason for the rise in fatality rates as well.
Information used to compile the data for the report is gathered from police accident
reports, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and other sources. The data was also broken down by national regions. Eight of the ten regions experienced rises in
traffic fatalities, with the New England Region, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, showing a greater than 15% increase in fatalities from 2011. The two regions that showed declines in traffic deaths in 2012 were the five states of the Northwest, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, and the three states in the New York Metropolitan area, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, each down by 1%. Actual fatality counts for 2012 will be reported through FARS in the fall of 2013.
NHTSA has also published a notice reminding all motorists to safely share the road with motorcyclists. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and despite declines in automobile fatalities since 2005, motorcycle deaths have increased every year for the past 14 years except in 2009 when there was a 16% decline. On a per vehicle mile basis, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of cars, and five times more likely to be injured. About 5,000 motorcyclists died in 2012, which would be 14.7% of overall traffic fatalities – the highest percentage ever – and a 9% increase over the previous year. NHTSA also reminds professional drivers that trucks, buses and large limousines need to pay attention to their large blind spot areas and go slowly and carefully, especially in this season of increased motorcycle traffic.