The federal government reported last week that traffic fatality numbers are on the rise. In the first six months of 2012, 9 percent more people died in motor vehicle accidents. Compared to data going back to 1975, this increase is the highest on record.
A 9 percent increase over last year's numbers means that vehicle crashes killed around 16,290 people in the first half of 2012. While this is the largest year on year increase since 1979's 6.9 percent jump, it is still a strong reduction from the record number of fatalities. More than 20,000 people died in the first six months of 2006.
Since 2006, traffic fatalities have consistently declined. Around 15,000 people died in traffic accidents in the first half of last year.
While the government agency responsible for this data warned that it is too early to determine why so many more people died, commentators are beginning to suggest some hypotheses. One observer pointed to more cars on the road and more people driving longer miles, in part due to a steadily improving economy.
However, other federal data show that Americans really did not drive that much more this year. Between January and June of 2012, Americans only drove 1.1 percent more than last year. This leaves a big gap between the increase in fatalities and the increase in mileage. The same observer also suggested that deteriorating roadway infrastructure could be playing a role. It is also possible that other factors like cell phone-related distractions are involved.
Whatever the cause, it is clear that drivers need to stay vigilant on the road to protect the safety of all motorists.
Source: CNN, "Traffic fatalities up 9% in first half of 2012," Jim Barnett, Sept. 28, 2012