Report: U.S. Traffic Deaths Up Nine Percent for First Half of 2012

After a five-year trend of decreasing traffic deaths, the first half of 2012 appears to have reversed the trend: Deaths on U.S. roads have increased nine percent compared to the first six months of 2011, a new report says. By 2011, traffic deaths were at a 60-year low, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports.

While it could take up to a year for a study to provide answers, experts suggest that the weather, the economy, gasoline prices, the increase in texting, or even the use of synthetic or prescription drugs may be contributing to the increase of traffic deaths, Reuters reports.

“While it’s too soon to speculate on the contributing factors of any increase in deaths on our roadways, NHTSA is closely monitoring the data,” said NHTSA spokeswoman Lynda Tran, in a statement.

In 2008, traffic deaths were the leading cause of death for those eight to 34 years old and the second cause of death for four- to seven-year-olds. By 2009, traffic deaths for the 25 to 34 year old age group declined and became the second-leading cause of death, according to NHTSA statistics. Overall, motor vehicle traffic crashes were the ninth most common cause of death in the U.S. for people of all ages but didn’t make the top 10 list in 2009.

Advocacy groups such as the Governors Highway Safety Association, are encouraging lawmakers to ban texting and hand-held cellphones while driving, and make mandatory in more states ignition interlock devices for convicted drunk drivers.

Source: Reuters, NHTSA