February 26, 2013

National Safety Council Reports Highway Fatalities Rose in 2012 Above Previous Year’s Death Toll

by Lebowitz & Mzhen

It would be morbid to say that an improving economy may have caused more than 1,500 additional traffic deaths last year than in 2011, but you can be sure that someone will suggest it. As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my colleagues have a much more grounded view of things when it comes to injuries and fatalities on our nation’s roadways; there’s never a good reason for people to be killed in senseless and often preventable traffic collisions.

Whether you’re talking about passenger cars crashes, trucking-related wrecks or motorcycle accidents, there are often one or more individuals who will be sent to the hospital with serious or even life-threatening injuries. From broken bones and serious burns, to lacerations, internal injuries and closed-head trauma, few people come away totally unhurt following a bad automobile or commercial truck collision.

Areas like Baltimore, the District, and other densely populated metropolitan centers get their share of roadway accidents. Having met with dozens of accident victims, we understand the physical pain and difficult recovery and rehab periods that many people experience following a car crash. And even if they survive the initial collision, the financial burden that can follow may be just as devastating, especially for families that are already struggling with money issues. Throw in a loss of income when a single parent is hurt or laid up in a hospital bed and the families troubles are only just beginning.

Just recently we read about the latest tally of nationwide fatal car accidents on American roadways in 2012, and we were certainly struck by the news. According to a study by the National Safety Council in Washington, D.C., deaths from fatal traffic wrecks increased by five percent in 2012. This information was is based on the council’s analysis of preliminary accident data for each state in the union and it represents a reversal in the seven-year decline in roadway deaths, which reportedly hit a six-decade low.

The ironic part of this news is that the National Safety Council, as well as other safety experts across the country, attribute this rise to increased driving miles spurred by an increase in economic activity; that and the mild winter weather experienced in 2012. The total traffic-related deaths last year was pinned at around 36,200, up from the previous year by more than a thousand people. That 1,000-plus rise is the first increase, according to news reports, since 2005 deaths exceeded the previous year’s figure.

In addition to the fatality data, the council took a look at the injury total for 2012 and found that those accidents resulting in injuries requiring medical attention increase as well by the same general percentage -- five percent. While this may appear to some as a relatively small increase, when you calculate the actual number of people injured in traffic crashes last year, that percentage comes to nearly 200,000 individuals who were sent to the hospital for auto-related accident injuries. The total number injured in roadway collisions in 2012 was about 3.9 million, according to the National Safety Council.

One additional fact that we found striking was the increase in the rate of traffic-related deaths. According to the data presented in the article we reviewed, the traffic death rate for 2012 apparently increased by four percent to 1.23 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven. It was noted that the estimated annual death rate for the entire U.S. population was 11.49 per 100,000; this equated to a four-percent rise as well.

This rise in traffic accident deaths, according to some, may also have been influenced by those incidents involving pedestrian and bicyclists, which indicates what many had surmised as the economy contracted over the past years; that more and more people were seeking alternative ways to get around, many them choosing to walk and ride bikes for commuting as well as exercise.

With automobiles being, on average, safer than they have ever been -- with many new occupant protection features, vehicle stability systems and crash avoidance capabilities -- it’s not too surprising that roadway fatalities had been declining. We can only hope that this latest jump is only temporary. Time will tell, however, and we can only watch and wait.


Safety Council: Traffic deaths surged in 2012; MSN.com; February 19, 2013