A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows highway fatalities in the United States increased last year 5.3% from 2011, reversing several years of annual declines.
A total of 1,713 more people were killed in traffic crashes in 2012 than the year before, with 34,080 lives lost.
The fatality rate, which is the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, also rose, from 1.10 to 1.16. While total vehicle miles traveled in 2012 increased by 9.1 billion, a 0.3% hike, fatalities increased at a much greater rate of 5.3%.
The report does not detail how many of these highway deaths involved commercial vehicles. However, a separate report from late last year shows truck occupant deaths increased 20% in 2011. Figures for 2012 have not been released.
Despite the increase in overall highway deaths, the 2012 figure is still well below the level of 2005, when more than 43,000 people died along America’s highways.
“While it is too soon to speculate on the contributing factors or potential implications of any increase in deaths on our roadways, it should be noted that the historic downward trend in traffic fatalities in the past several years means any comparison will be to an unprecedented low baseline figure,” said NHTSA. “This is a pattern which has continued through the reported totals for 2011 that show deaths at a 60-year low. In fact, fatalities declined by about 26 percent from 2005 to 2011.”
The increase has led groups such as Roadway Safety Alliance, the non-profit foundation of the American Highway Users Alliance, to call for more federal investment in roadway safety.
“Strong federal investment in roadway safety infrastructure and engineering safety countermeasures is critically needed if our country wants to truly move the needle and tackle the alarming toll that traffic deaths take on our society,” says Greg Cohen, executive director of the Roadway Safety Foundation.
Members of the American Highway Users Alliance include the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and AAA, among others.
The increase in traffic fatalities as reported by NHTSA follows a February estimate from the National Safety Council that 32,600 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2012, a 5% hike from the previous year and the first increase in seven years.