p> Highway deaths in the US increased to 33,561 in 2012—1,082 more (3.3%) than in 2011, according to the 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The majority of the increase in deaths (72%)—the first increase since 2005—occurred in the first quarter of the year. Most of those involved were motorcyclists and pedestrians.
However, highway deaths over the past five years continue to remain at historic lows. Fatalities in 2011 were at the lowest level since 1949 and even with the slight increase in 2012, deaths are same level as 1950. Early estimates on crash fatalities for the first half of 2013 indicate a decrease in deaths compared to the same timeframe in 2012.
Americans drove approximately the same amount of miles in 2012 as in the previous year. The final 2012 numbers confirm preliminary quarterly reports issued by the agency.
Other key 2012 statistics include:
Fatalities among pedestrians increased for the third consecutive year (6.4% increase over 2011). The data showed the large majority of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban areas, at non-intersections, at night and many involved alcohol.
Motorcycle rider fatalities increased for the third consecutive year (7.1% increase over 2011). Ten times as many riders died not wearing a helmet in states without a universal helmet law than in states with such laws.
Large-truck occupant fatalities increased for the third consecutive year (8.9% over 2011).
Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers increased 4.6% in 2012, taking 10,322 lives compared to 9,865 in 2011. The majority of those crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher—nearly double the legal limit.
The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328, while an estimated 421,000 people were injured, a 9% increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011. NHTSA is just beginning to identify distraction-related accidents, and is continuing work to improve the way it captures data to better quantify and identify potential trends in this area.
Nighttime seat belt use continues to be a challenge. In nighttime crashes in 2012, almost two-thirds of the people that died were unrestrained.
Thirteen states and Washington DC experienced reductions in overall traffic fatalities, led by Mississippi (48 fewer); New Jersey (38); Georgia (34); Alabama (30); and Utah (26). In addition, 18 states and Washington DC showed decreases in drunk driving deaths. New Jersey had the greatest decrease (30 fewer) followed by Colorado (27); Utah (20); Oklahoma (17); and Virginia (17).