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Based on preliminary data, NSC estimates that there were 36,200 traffic fatalities in 2012 -- an uptick of 5% from 2011 and the first increase in U.S. traffic fatalities since 2005. The number of injuries that required medical attention also rose 5% to 3.9 million.
The cost of all those accidents went up, too. Not only did families and friends have to deal with the pain and sorrow of losing loved ones, but there were also hard costs related to medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and lost productivity to consider. Factoring all those in, the bill for traffic accidents in 2012 was around $276.6 billion, an uptick of 5% over 2011.
Although NHTSA won't publish its own results for several more months, its preliminary findings were similar. In fact, last fall the agency estimated that fatalities on U.S. roads jumped 9% in the first half of 2012.
WHY THE INCREASE?
When NHTSA released its early estimates for 2012, the agency didn't suggest any reason for the upswing. However, in its report on 2011 fatalities, NHTSA identified several key areas of concern:
AAA also suggested that America's crumbling roads might be partially to blame for the increase.
NSC identifies similar problems, and also notes that Americans are driving more. Thanks to a recovering economy (which has increased the number of commuters) and a mild 2012 winter, more motorists were on the road last year. And typically, more people on the road means more accidents -- and likely, more fatalities.
We'll keep you posted as these numbers are confirmed later in the year.