Highway traffic deaths rose an estimated 5.3 percent in 2012 over the previous year, according to a new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Preliminary figures show that 34,080 people died last year in motor vehicle crashes, compared to 32,367 in 2011. If those numbers are confirmed, then 2012 will be the first year that traffic fatalities increased year over year since 2005. Traffic deaths had declined 26 percent from 2005 to 2011.
The greatest percentage growth in crash deaths last year occurred in the first quarter when the estimated number of fatalities jumped 12.6 percent over the same quarter in 2011.
The latest report comes on the heels of projections from the Governors Highway Safety Association that motorcyclist deaths rose 9 percent last year over 2011. About 5,000 motorcyclists died in crashes last year, the association estimated -- almost 15 percent of the total number of all motorists killed in accidents.
In light of the increase in motorcycle deaths, the association called for a comprehensive strategy to keep motorcyclists safe, including universal helmet laws, which 31 states now lack.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report did not give any reasons for why traffic deaths rose last year. But the governors association said the increase in motorcycle deaths may be due to high gas prices and the improving economy, both of which might prompt more people to purchase motorcycles.