For many years, traffic fatalities have gone down as safety technology has improved. In the first six months of 2012, fatal motor vehicle accidents increased 9 percent when compared to the first half of 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That increase represents the largest such jump since the NHTSA began gathering the data in 1975. In terms of raw numbers, the NHTSA estimates that 16,290 people died in traffic crashes from January through June 2012. In 2011, the number was 14,950.
The government was quick to point out that the number of traffic fatalities is still down significantly from even 2006. In the first half of that year, 20,500 people died in motor vehicle fatalities. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there was a 1.1 percent increase in the number of miles driven on American roadways from 2011 to 2012. That increase may explain a small portion of the increase in fatalities.
A spokesperson for the American Automobile Association suggested that, in addition to the increase in vehicles on the roads, a deterioration of the highways and the need for increased maintenance and improvements may be a contributing factor. The AAA described the increase in fatal accidents as, "alarming."
The NHTSA has declined to speculate on what factors have contributed to the rise in fatalities at this time.
Source: CNN, "Traffic fatalities up 9% in first half of 2012," by Jim Barnett, 28 September 2012