• Jul 26th 2012 at 4:30PM
  • 16
The aftermath of a devastating car accident (Credit: ER... The aftermath of a devastating car accident (Credit: ER24 EMS (Pty) Ltd., Flickr).
The number of traffic fatalities in the United States unexpectedly soared during the first three months of 2012, according to recently released data.

Approximately 7,630 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the first quarter, a 13.5 percent jump over the same period in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The increase represents the second-highest quarterly spike since the organization began keeping records in 1975, and also is a stark contrast to a recent downward trend. It is the first time in five quarters the rate has not decreased, and is only the third quarterly increase among the past 24 quarters.

Transportation officials were at a loss to explain the sudden increase. In a written release, NHTSA officials said it was "too soon to speculate on the contributing factors," although a few paragraphs later, they did just that.

It notes that weather in many parts of the country was unseasonably warm this past winter, which could have put more people on the roads at a time they were usually unable to log miles. Others said that the improving economy has put more motorists on the road. Indeed, the Federal Highway Administration says that vehicle miles traveled increased by about 9.7 billion miles, or 1.4 percent, over the 2011 figures.

"While it is likely not the only factor involved AAA agrees that warmer-than-average winter weather may have contributed to higher vehicle miles traveled, and ultimately more fatal crashes," Jacob Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research with the Automobile Association of America tells CNN.

The number of first-quarter traffic fatalities has fallen steadily since 2006, when there were 9,558. In 2007, they dipped to 9,354, in 2008 reached 8,459, 7,552 in 2990 and 6,729 in 2010. In 2011, the number decreased by nine to 6,720 before jumping this year.

Overall, traffic fatalities reached their highest levels in 1972, when 54,589 people were killed, according to Department of Transportation figures. That annual number has also steadily fallen, reaching 32,310 last year.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      As Stewie Griffin would say, " C'MON! REALLLLY, YA DON'T WHY?
      • 3 Years Ago
      REALLY ?!? are we in THAT much denial about distacted driving ?? not even mentuioned in this article?? WOW! i can tell u what that is EXACTLY
        • 3 Years Ago
        Absolutely, it is disturbing that they don't see the obvious cause.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Stunned, absolutely amazed, that distracted driving was not mentioned. Saw a mom driving a van down a busy road the other day, weaving erratically. Pulled closer and saw that she was texting. Had kids in the back in car seats. Beeped at her but she ignored me. If you drive a vehicle, you see it constantly around you: people of all ages who text and talk while driving. Even talking hands-free is a distraction. The conversations I have with friends and family who use headsets typically have these types of comments thrown in: "Darn, just missed my turn." "Oops, went the wrong way." "Hang on, I better concentrate." Something is seriously wrong here.
        • 3 Years Ago
        "Even talking hands-free is a distraction." "Something is seriously wrong here." Yeah-- People aren't being taught how to drive. If you can't multitask, you really shouldn't be driving... because you ought to be able to focus on the traffic in front of you, be aware of the traffic behind you, have an escape route planned for when that car in front of you does something stupid, AND still be able to operate the controls of your vehicle. I'm not suggesting texting is a good idea, or putting on makeup, or reading a book, but you've got to be aware of what's around you, and be able to react-- ideally, BEFORE it become a panic situation. If talking to someone overloads your friends' capacity to deal with what's going on around them, they should probably focus on driving more than talking.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This author of this article is hoping that you will fall for this BS "projected" statistic (based on some computer model no doubt) and forget all about this article just a few months ago......... Traffic Fatalities Show Dramatic Increase, And No One's Quite Sure Why Warm weather, improving economy are possible reasons Posted: Jul 26, 2012 | By: Pete Bigelow | AOL Autos http://autos.aol.com/article/traffic-fatalities-show-dramatic-increase-and-no-ones-quite-su/
      • 3 Years Ago
      Enforcement, or should say lack of it is a BIG BIG reason the fatalities are up in my opinion. Just for example, I travelled a major Interstate highway yesterday, Sunday, and most of the traffic was running around 70 to 75MPH, however, a few idijits were running 80 to 90MPH until running up on other vehicles and needed to slow, except some were in an out of lanes like they were late for their own funerals. I also traveled further onto several State roadways and never once did I see a patrol car, plain or otherwise. Okay, it was early afternoon hours, but some of it was within a few City Speed limits. Can just imagine what kind of damage would be involved with alcohol or other drugs added into the mix. I don't like getting a ticket any better than the next guy, but if you're travelling faster than the traffic will permit, especially on two-lane roads and streets, you deserve one brother and sister. I'd give you one for reckless driving the way some of the people went past me, if I owned a squad car, believe you me. Please slow down so we can all live. Thanks
      • 3 Years Ago
      too many retards, texting, talking on their phones, playing with their pads............
      • 3 Years Ago
      I attribute this to the proliferation of these fancy phones with all the fancy features=distracted driving.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Older men are well trained at being a gentleman, more civilized and capable of supporting whoever they are with, and understand better how to treat a woman and how to give her what she wants. That’s why many young women are seeking older men. If you are 40 plus single male, I would encourage you to join - - - - - АgelеssМαtch_C_o_m - - - - - - and date a younger woman, to feel young again and make your life more adventurous. Without a doubt ,distracted & reckless driving seems on the rise. I really used to enjoy a road trip-so relaxing, a great time to relax & think. Nowadays, I dread them. People are so unpredictable & aggressive, you rarely get much chance to relax & just enjoy the view.
      • 3 Years Ago
      And why is this picture from a London highway? Not that it really matters- I agree with everyone else. Texting HAS to be the #1 reason.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hmmm... lets see why would there be more? 1) texting 2) sexting 3) faster cars 4) smaller cars 5) cheaper made cars 6) more rich kids with sports cars 7) online phones doing social networking 8) mobile games Please people there has to be a reason for the increase of wrecks so what could it possibly be? My bet is the whole phone issue. I myself have been guilty of talking and that is bad enough. But with 3g and 4g phones and kids not able to take their eyes off it for a minute how do they drive at all. I watched one kid with their head down looking at a phone while he swerved all over and almost ran me off the road. Being in my truck I could see the phone in his lap.
        • 3 Years Ago
        3, 4 and 5 aren't really an issue-- You can kill yourself at 50 miles per hour as easily as you can at 100, cars are nowhere near as small as the small sports cars of the 60's and 70's, and most cars pass crash tests that would have destroyed cars made as recently as the 1990's. If you can't talk and drive, I don't want you on the same road as I'm on... you're too incompetent to have a license. Now... texting? People not bothering to pay attention? Too much "infotainment" while driving? These, I agree with.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Without a doubt ,distracted & reckless driving seems on the rise. I really used to enjoy a road trip-so relaxing, a great time to relax & think. Nowadays, I dread them. People are so unpredictable & aggressive, you rarely get much chance to relax & just enjoy the view.
      • 3 Years Ago
      REALLY ?? this article doesnt even mention distracted driving.. are we in that much denial?? my family alone has had 4 vehicles totaled in the last 16months..all by drivers who were ticketed with distracted driving..texting, cell phone, etc.... 4 TOTALED vehicles in one family , none of which any of us were ticketed for. all u have to do is look as cars pass you on the freeway...go ahead...just take a quick glance as they pull in front of you as they pass..... texting...web serching...facebook....cell phones. we, as a country, have an addiction that is killing our friends and families . it needs to be ADDRESSED and STOPPED we need to get our heads out of the sand..
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