Highway Deaths in U.S. Rise After Six Years of Declines

The number of people killed on U.S. highways rose in 2012 to end a run of six consecutive declines, the longest streak in the nation’s history.

Crash fatalities rose 5.3 percent to an estimated 34,080 from a year earlier, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said today in a report. The jump coincided with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s campaign against distracted driving.

The fatality rate, or the number of people killed for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled, rose also, from 1.1 to 1.16. The agency previously pointed to declines in death rates as evidence of success in promoting safety even when absolute numbers rose.

The report, which is preliminary until final figures are released later this year, gave no reason for the increase. The Governors Highway Safety Association said in a report last month that motorcyclist deaths increased about 9 percent last year to more than 5,000, meaning that could have helped spur the total increase.

The increase in fatalities outpaced a .3 percent rise in the number of miles driven in the U.S., according to the Federal Highway Administration. The number of people killed last year on U.S. roads was the highest since 2008, which was the third of six consecutive years of declines.

The U.S. government has tracked deaths on U.S. roads since 1899, when 26 people died in motor-vehicle crashes.

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