Traffic Fatalities Up in First Quarter of Year, Preliminary Data Shows

AASHTO Journal, 3 August 2012

Traffic deaths have jumped significantly in the first quarter of 2012 when compared with 2011 numbers for the same period, preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows.

NHTSA estimates that traffic fatalities for the first quarter of 2012 shot up 13.5 percent from the first quarter of the previous year, which is how NHTSA analyzes trends. The preliminary data shows that about 7,630 people died from motor vehicle crashes during that time, while roughly 6,720 were lost in the same fashion in 2011.

“Any increase in traffic deaths is unacceptable and we remain absolutely committed to working with our partners at NHTSA and across the country to keep the roadways safe,” said a statement released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Fortunately, the recently enacted highway bill (MAP-21) gives states the resources to fund proven programs that save lives. As the news from NHTSA reminds us, these programs remain critically important.”

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Director of Engineering and Technical Services Tony Kane agreed.

“The 13.5 percent increase is alarming. It happened in a quarter where travel only increased 1.4 percent over the same period in 2011,” he said. “MAP-21 provides an opportunity with a doubling of the highway safety improvement program dollars for all safety partners to aggressively plan for and implement strategies that will save lives. We are all committed to a goal of halving the number of fatalities from the base level of 42,000 by the year 2030. We have made great progress so far and we can’t let this temporary blip be a setback, rather it should serve as a strong call for action.”

If these estimates turn out to be accurate, it will demonstrate the second-largest year-to-year quarterly increase in traffic deaths since NHTSA began keeping track in 1975. An increase of 15.3 percent was noted during the first quarter of 1979. First quarter fatality numbers are usually lower than the other three quarters of the year, likely due to weather conditions, NHTSA says.

A two page summary of the early estimates for traffic deaths in the first quarter of 2012 is available at

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