NHTSA says road fatalities up 3.3% in 2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crunched the numbers, and its data says that 2012 was a deadlier year for US motorists than 2011, with a 3.3-percent increase in road fatalities. 33,561 people were killed, with much of the blame being placed on an unseasonably warm winter that put more people behind the wheel than usual. Although 1,082 more people were killed, 72 percent were killed during the first quarter of the year, when snow and cold weather often do their part to keep people off the streets, according to The Detroit News.

Lending credence to the fact that our cars are safer than ever, many of those killed were pedestrians or motorcyclists, with The Detroit News reporting that there was a 7.1-percent increase in motorcyclists killed in 2012, the third year of increases in a row.

There were improvements, though. Automotive News notes that there was a small drop in deaths associated with distracted driving, from 3,360 to 3,328, although 421,000 people – a 9-percent increase over 2011 – were injured due to distracted drivers. Despite all of this, though, 2012 road deaths are near a 60-year-low overall.

"Highway deaths claim more than 30,000 lives each year, and while we've made substantial progress over the past 50 years, it's clear that we have much more work to do," said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox.

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