STATE – A recently released report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says an estimated 16,290 persons died in traffic crashes from January to June of 2012, a 9 percent increase from just a year ago when there were an estimated 14,950 fatalities during the same period.
NHTSA’s report shows that the startling increase represents the largest number of traffic fatalities during the first half of a given year since it first began collecting data in 1975. In the first quarter of the year, there was a 13.4 increase in traffic fatalities from January to March over the same time period in 2011. There was a 5.3 percent increase in the second quarter.
“This news is very disturbing,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We’ve worked decades to reduce fatalities in America. We’ll have to wait and see the complete numbers for 2012, but this is a warning that as the economy recovers, and we drive more, our roads may not be as safe as we thought they were. Americans are driving more, so with increased exposure, we are seeing crashes and deaths on the rise,” Noble said.
“During the recession which began in December 2007, there were fewer cars, trucks and less traffic on the roads because of various factors such as unemployment,” Noble said. “Another consideration might be the continued deterioration of highways and deferral of needed improvements by federal and state governments.”
The report released by NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis shows that the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased by about 15.6 billion miles in the first six months of 2012 – a 1.1 percent increase from this same time period last year. Also, the traffic fatality rate (number of people killed in traffic crashes per 100 million VMT) increased from 1.04 during the first months of 2011 to 1.12 covering the same time period this year.
In New Jersey, traffic fatalities in 2010 (final 2011 numbers have yet to be released by NHTSA), declined nearly 5 percent from 584 to 556. According to the New Jersey State Police Fatal Crash Statistics fatalities in New Jersey fatalities are still down year to date by 5.2%.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says NHTSA’s early data undersores the need for Congress to quickly allocate funding for behavioral safety grant programs – recently established in the federal highway bill (MAP-21) to help states address issues such as driver distraction impaired driving and teen and senior safety driving.
The motor club has for years established an aggressive campaign to promote safe driving through links on its website including: www.aaa.com/teendriving and AAA.com/Senior Driving. AAA Mid-Atlantic also has a Foundation for Safety and Education which is a non-profit, charitable organization that seeks to prevent fatalities and reduce injuries through traffic and travel awareness and safety education in schools, community and senior centers and other venues.