Initial statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are that traffic fatalities were on the rise in 2012.
Our Atlanta trucking accident attorneys understand early estimates indicate more than 34,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes across the U.S. last year. If this bears true when the final numbers are tallied, this would represent a 5.3 percent increase as compared to the approximately 32,300 traffic deaths reported in 2011.
This would be the first annual increase of traffic deaths we've had since 2005 in this country. In the last six years, the number of people killed in traffic crashes had been dropping steadily. It dropped about 26 percent from 2005 to 2011.
It appears that traffic deaths increased the most during the first quarter of the year (about 12.5 percent), tapering off each quarter thereafter. In fact, that was one of the highest quarterly increases ever reported since the mid-1970s, when the NHTSA first began keeping track. The only time it was higher was the first quarter of 1979, when the fatality rate rose by more than 15 percent.
In the past, the tanking economy was at least partially cited as a factor in the years-long decrease. This made sense, considering the price of oil was up and people weren't getting raises or, worse, were getting laid off or couldn't find a job at all. That meant fewer people were driving, fewer truck companies were hiring and overall, there were less miles being traveled.
This last year, researchers say there has been a 0.3 percent increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled. That still doesn't line up with the 5.3 percent rise in traffic deaths.
When we compare the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, it's jumped from 1.10 in 2011 to 1.16 in 2012.
The one bit of good news, at least for Georgia, is that regionally, we didn't fare bad. There were many areas where the rate of fatalities soared as high as 9 and 10 percent. The region with the highest uptick was Region 6, which includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, where the rates rose by 10 percent. In region 3, which includes North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, it rose by 4 percent. It rose by 5 percent in Region 7, which includes Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
In our area, Region 4, the fatality rate rose by 2 percent. The region includes Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.
On the one hand, it's good news that we're not the worst in the country. Still, a 2 percent increase, when we're talking about lives lost, is never something to become complacent about.
The NHTSA has thusfar declined to speculate on some of the possible reasons for this uptick until the final numbers are in.
We'll be closely following any developments. In the meantime, we urge everyone to do their best to practice safer driving habits this summer.