Our blog last week dealt with truck driving crashes and how much more dangerous and potentially fatal accidents involving trucks can be. Although those facts remain, another unfortunate report by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that there were more fatal car crashes in 2012 (the most recent year data is available) than in 2011. Although that remains disappointing, it is worth noting that traffic deaths in 2011 were at their lowest level since 1949. Indeed, traffic crashes over the past 5 or so years, as a whole, remain at historic lows. The increase from 2011 to 2012 is not attributed to Americans driving more, as they drove the same amount they did in 2011, but may be attributed, in part, to warmer weather. The first quarter of 2012, when the majority of the increase occurred, was one of the warmest in history.

What exactly did NHTSA’s report reveal? Highway deaths increased 3.3 percent, to 33,561 in 2012, according to the safety agency’s 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Traffic crash injuries also increased by 6.5 percent. Also, 52 percent of those killed in 2012 traffic crashes were not wearing safety belts. Nighttime safety belt use is even more problematic. In 2012 nighttime fatal crashes, almost two-thirds of those killed were not restrained.

Among motorcyclists, deaths increased by 7.1 percent in 2012. Although helmet laws can be controversial, states that did not have helmet laws (such as Florida) maintained the sad record of losing 10 times as many riders who were not wearing a helmet than did states who had a helmet law on the books. Fatal crashes involving drunk driving, which are always a concern, increased 4.6 percent. Distracted driving fatal crashes decreased slightly, but injuries related to distracted driving increased 9 percent. Additionally, fatalities among pedestrians increased for the third year in a row. Most pedestrian fatalities occurred in urban areas, at night at non-intersections, and involved alcohol.

Polk County had 88 traffic crash fatalities in 2012. It is interesting to note that there was 0% change from 1994-2012 in Polk County traffic crash fatalities, as 88 is the exact number of deaths Polk County endured in 1994, according to the NHTSA. Meanwhile, Florida had 2,424 traffic fatalities in 2012—10 percent less than its 1994 figure.

However, it is worth noting that youth fatal traffic crashes decreased in 2012, following a trend established in the last few years. It is also worth nothing that for the first half of 2013, the NHTSA reported a 4.2 percent decline from the first half of 2012.

Therefore, despite the seemingly temporary increase in 2012, it is heartening that overall, traffic crash fatalities are at historic lows. Here are a few basic actions you can take to try to protect yourself or your loved ones while either driving a vehicle or motorcycle, riding as a passenger, or walking as a pedestrian: 1) wear your seatbelt; 2) do not drink alcohol and drive; 3) do not text or engage in other behavior that can distract you while driving; 4) set reasonable restrictions for your teenager while they learn how to drive. If you are a motorcyclist, please wear a helmet. As a pedestrian, avoid crossing the street or walking along a street at night if possible. If it is not possible, try to wear reflective clothing and avoid non-intersections. Do not drink alcohol and walk dangerous roads.

If your loved one is in a fatal traffic crash or if you or a loved one suffer injuries as a result of a traffic crash, call the skilled attorneys at Brooks Law Group. We can help determine whether you are entitled to any compensation.

Steve was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. As was the practice for new doctors his father worked day and night during his medical residency at Charity Hospital there. Steve comes from a long line of doctors. His father, his grandfather, his great grandfather, even two uncles were all specialists and/or surgeons in their chosen medical specialties, including internal medicine specialist, obstetrics / gynecology, neurosurgery and general practice / surgery. His great-great grandfather was the Surgeon General of Ohio during the Civil War.