By on November 18, 2013

traffic-fatalities

According to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway deaths in the United States increased in 2012 by more than 1,000 fatalities compared to 2011. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s getting less safe to drive since the majority of the 33,561 people killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2012 were motorcyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrian fatalities rose for the third year in a row and a majority of those deaths involved jaywalking at night. Many pedestrian deaths also involved alcohol. Even with the increase in 2012, highway fatalities over the past five years continue to be at a historic low.

“Highway deaths claim more than 30,000 lives each year, and while we’ve made substantial progress over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we have much more work to do,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Motorcyclist fatalities also increased for the third straight year. States without mandatory helmet laws had ten times as many rider fatalities as those states that require motorcyclists to wear protective headgear. Bicycling fatalities were at the highest they’ve been in six years.

Alcohol related fatalities rose to 10,322 in 2012, compared to 9,865 in the previous year. The majority of those fatalities involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration nearly double the legal limit.

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32 Comments on “U.S. Highway Fatalities Rose In 2012 On Increased Motorcycle, Pedestrian Deaths...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Aside from the innocent victims of drunk drivers, this is mostly Darwin.

    I’m for permanent revocation of license at the second DUI, mandatory death sentence at the third.

    I wonder if anyone agrees with me… so hard to ferret out true feelings in a PC culture.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I think the revocation is a good idea, death penalty not so much. Hopepfully that doesn’t make me a “bleeding heart liberal”. Seems like everyone has a negative label for anyone who doesn’t agree with them these days.

    • 0 avatar

      “Highway deaths” and “pedestrians” don’t seem like phrases that should be in the same vicinity. If you’re walking the highways (especially if you’re doing so at night, while intoxicated) you do so at your own risk.
      /tongue-in-cheek

      “Permanent revocation of license at the second DUI” sounds lenient to me. Why give someone a second opportunity to kill an innocent? -

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Wherever you see “highway”, read “transportation”. It’s the Transportation Department after all, and they lump all fatal accidents into the same total. A current and historical breakdown of accident type would be helpful to us, but maybe not to the people in the Department, or the politicians.

        • 0 avatar
          Dubbed

          One of the reasons why it is difficult to get an entirely accurate account of how someone died is that its up to each jurisdiction and state to define what a cause of death is. One state would include a pedestrian in these statistics, another would not, for example.

          Yeah its numbers compiled by the Transportation Dept. but it depends on how well the officer on the scene or coroner defines the means of death.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I got curious about what a highway was in my state and looked it up. It includes anywhere anyone might even think of operating a motorized vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Actually I’ve been a proponent of it since forever. Eye for an eye if you kill someone while driving drunk. I would take their license for 1 year on the 1st DUI, then complete revocation and longer and longer prison sentences on each successive counts.

      One of the most disgusting things in recent memory was when I lived in South Hill VA and the son of the local radio station’s DJ killed some kids driving drunk. He got off scot-free because of who his dad was. If that wasn’t bad enough, you know where he went immediately after? To the gas station I was working at to buy a 24-can case of Bud to celebrate. I was beside the girl who rang up the purchase. If only thoughts could kill, my friends…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      While the death penalty is fun to throw around for all types of undesirable behavior, it really needs to be reserved for people who have caused irrevokable harm and aren’t reconcilable so we don’t have to pay for their institutionalization for life. Also, so we don’t become a society that thinks it’s OK to shoot j-walkers.

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        I’ve wondered why we can’t have a stepped penalty system.

        Drive home from the bar, get pulled over for a taillight, be cooperative, officer smells your breath, you blow, say, between .06 and .09? I’m okay with you paying a fine and taking a course, but only if it’s your first time. Maybe give the guilty the option to take a sobriety test as well, to judge how inebriated they truly are.

        .10 to .15 or so? Yeah, you’re not driving for a while. Call it a six-month minimum, or a year if you’re pulled over for crossing the double-yellow or some other violation that speaks to just how drunk you are, or if you’ve been here before, with the judge having the option to double that.

        Beyond that, or if you damage property or (God forbid) hurt someone while you’re tanked? Yeah, buddy, you’re going to jail.

        Obviously multiple offenses would add up, as well.

        I believe that most people who drive drunk do so because they didn’t plan well enough, and because they’re drunk, they often don’t see a better option. Saying “there is no excuse” is true to a point, but listening to the excuses given can help us make our roads safer as well.

        For instance, right now, parking in a public lot near a friend’s apartment, getting drunk with him, walking back to your car, and sleeping it off can still get you arrested for DUI if the keys are in the car, when in reality there’s no poor judgment call being made. Similarly, if the effects of your last drink start to hit you after you’ve left, of course you should safely park the car and rest, and at that point you shouldn’t still have to worry about how drunk you are – you smartened up, and you parked the vehicle.

        tl;dr: Make the punishment fit the crime.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I think you need to bump those up by one. Revokation at first offense.

      Though that said, I think the bac limit needs to be at a realistic level and/or there has to be actual impairment. People with a .085 bac are not killing people.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Harsh penalties are more than fine with me, but I’d rather see them focus on those who actually harm others, regardless of their chosen form of negligence.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    These stats surprise me, as I thought road fatalities have dramatically dropped due to all the safety equipment in cars now.

    However, I do hear more impaired driving incidents, whether drugs, alcohol, texting or something else. Also, more pedestrians are getting hit.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Fatality rates per mile have been falling sharply for decades. But the population is rising, and is driving more than it did decades ago.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        With rising population, more cars, and more miles driven, expecting absolute numbers to not go up is unrealistic. Frankly, it’s amazing they have been dropping. We should praise the progress that has been made.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Ride scared ~ it’s a good way to remain alive .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Jack Baruth’s minivan story below pretty well confirms the logic of riding scared. I pretty much assume everyone else on the road – in cars, on bikes, on foot – is sub-80 IQ, on drugs and has mental problems. That way I’m never surprised.

  • avatar
    raph

    Ah…hahahahahahahahahaha….. at states that don’t require helmets. I cannot fathom how that happened? My opinion is that motorcycle riders are so statistically unimportant compared to drivers that the powers that be ( read insurance companies ) just shrug and let the little people have their illusion of freedom?

    In any event what are more people walking and riding two wheelers compared to previous years inflating those deaths? When I read stuff like this it just makes me think its the bureaucratic version of headline sensationalism.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “States without mandatory helmet laws had ten times as many rider fatalities as those states that require motorcyclists to wear protective headgear”

    Per passenger mile? Per licensed motorcycle driver? C’mon TTAC, don’t just throw a number out without defining it. You’re better than that.

  • avatar
    mike978

    The article (linked below) in this week’s Economist has the same take on motorcycle fatalities :
    http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21589881-feel-wind-your-hair-bill-taxpayer-your-injuries-no-brainer

    Some data was given as deaths per bike mile.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I remember a joke from back in the 1970′s when I was in elementary school:

    Crossing the street is like playing piano. C-sharp or B-flat.

    Seriously, only a fool crosses the street with the EXPECTATION that the driver of an oncoming car is going to stop or slow down. Me, I haul ass even if there’s no real threat of traffic.

    You do not know the other person’t condition driving that car. They might be drunk, high, late for work, just found out their wife is screwing their neighbor, whatever.

    It’s akin to walking into a tiget cage and assuming he’s not hungry.

    “States without mandatory helmet laws had ten times as many rider fatalities as those states that require motorcyclists to wear protective headgear.” Hey, let Darwinism run its course.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “Me, I haul ass even if theres no real threat of traffic.”

      Excellent tactic. I crossed a street with absolutely no traffic, and almost got hit by a woman pulling away from the curb. A (fast) moving target is harder to hit.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Something I see–primarily in poorer neighborhoods–is the refusal of pedestrians to use crosswalks. Even if the crosswalk is in their direct path, they will cross 60-90 ft away and weave through cars, some still moving.

      I suspect that it is a learned behavior–you see your parents do it, so you just copy without understanding a reason. But I can’t figure out why it’s so pervasive or why it started in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Even when you have a walk signal, you’re at the mercy of an inattentive driver making a right turn on red, at both ends of the crosswalk. A lot of people might think it’s safer having cars coming at them in only one direction for half the trip across the street and the other direction the other half. OTOH you have to wait for the signal at the corners, and many people are too much in a hurry to wait when they can cross in the middle of the block anytime they please, and not have to take an extra few steps to the crosswalk. A lack of social self-discipline or unwillingness to be “told what to do” might enter into the equation too.

  • avatar
    ja-gti

    Huh. I thought the blunt, three-foot high front ends mandated by pedestrian impact laws would have caused a decrease in pedestrian fatalities.(sarcasm)

    The ugly cow-catcher prows required by these laws are making cars homogenous-looking and ill-proportioned. And yet, drunks walking in the road continue to be killed by four thousand pound objects traveling at thirty miles per hour. Did I miss the repeal of F=m x a, or do bureaucrats think their decrees have more power than the laws of physics?

    • 0 avatar
      Dubbed

      You need to look at European pedestrian death statistics since those are the laws in Europe not America.

      We wouldn’t give a rats a#$ about pedestrians over here. They should watch were their going.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I suspect a good amount of that dip there is “people driving less because of the economy”.

    I’d love a graph of deaths-per-mile-driven, to correct for that.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Also note that, during tough times, people cut down on discretionary driving to bars, parties, entertainment venues, etc.

      If I recall correctly, that type of driving results in more accidents and fatalities than other types of driving (i.e., driving to work).

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The fatality rate increased from 1.10 to 1.14 per 100 million miles.

      There was no dip. Fatality rates increased disproportionately in all categories, but passenger vehicle fatality rates increased at lower rates than did the other categories (large trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, bicyclists.)

      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf

      More data is needed to explain the increase. It may just be a fluke.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “the majority of the 33,561 people killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2012 were motorcyclists and pedestrians.”

    That isn’t accurate.

    NHTSA is reporting that the most of the increase from 2011 to 2012 is attributable to motorcycles and pedestrians. But about two-thirds of the fatalities were in passenger vehicles.

  • avatar

    Thanks Pch101 – the way it was written made it sound like a huge increase in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths. As well, the move from 1.10 to 1.14 does not constitute a trend; the long term trend is that safety improvements to cars have significantly improved highway fatalities. Presumably greater consciousness around driving while impaired has had an enormous effect. While everyone likes to point to the one guy who was a 0.21 and killed three people, and who might have been stopped with tougher laws, these incidences are as statistically relevant as the lone gunman who walks into a mall and takes out three or four people because he went off. Shit happens and draconian sentences do not prevent it.


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