Driving fatalities up 12 percent, according to study

A new study indicates traffic fatalities through the first three months of the year have elevated.

According to the National Safety Council*, deaths from motor vehicle crashes between January and March of this year jumped 12 percent when comparing the same period with 2011. In this year’s first quarter, 8,170 traffic deaths occurred. An estimated 7,270 took place in the same three-month period last year.

Economy, warm weather potential contributing factors

Total miles driven have continued to rise steadily since December of last year, NSC notes, which may be a partial reason for why the rate of traffic fatalities has edged higher. Potential factors that have led to increased traffic flow include an unusually mild winter and an improving economy.

Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the NSC, noted that the Council is eager to determine whether the spike in driving fatalities is an aberration or if something else may be at work.

“The Council will be keeping a close eye on our monthly traffic fatality estimates to discern if this increase is just a temporary blip due to this year’s mild winter, or if other factors such as the improving economy are contributing to the increased fatalities on our nation’s roads,” said Froetscher.

Seat belts help save lives

One of the leading ways in which safety officials have been able to reduce the number of driving fatalities in previous years is through seat belt campaigns. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration** launched its annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which has led to 3 million seat belt citations throughout the country since 2007. Last year alone, according to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, 500,000 tickets were handed out to drivers who did not buckle up.

Safety officials are hopeful that this year’s auto safety campaign will be as successful as 2011’s—potentially reducing the trend observed by NSC—as NHTSA studies indicate seat belt use among drivers was as high as 84 percent.

“Seat belts save tens of thousands of lives every year and there is simply no good excuse for not buckling up,” said David Strickland, NHTSA administrator.

* according to the National Safety Council on May 10, 2012
** according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on May 21, 2012

via Peter Montanez

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