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NHTSA: fatal accidents up in the US for the first time since 2005

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced that the number of fatal traffic accidents rose in the U.S. last year, marking the first increase in traffic fatalities since 2005. The agency also said that most of that 3.3-percent increase was due to an increase in virtually every type of traffic accident except car crashes, including a 4.6-percent jump in fatal drunk-driving accidents.

The national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving remarked that the 4.6-percent increase in drunk driving fatalities “alarming.” One of MADD’s top legislative priorities for cutting down on fatal drunk driving accidents is for all states to pass laws requiring anyone convicted of a drunk-driving offense to be required to use an ignition interlock device in order to drive.

Some 30 states still lack such laws, but it is unclear whether MADD considers Texas to be among them. In Texas, judges can order drivers to install ignition interlocks as a condition of continuing to drive, but this is not required in all cases.

NHTSA reports that the majority of the increase in fatal traffic accidents last year occurred in the first quarter of the year. Unfortunately, most of the fatalities were among motorcyclists and pedestrians, but deaths also increased among bikers and the occupants of commercial trucks.

Overall, the agency received reports of 33,561 fatal crashes in 2012 -- 1,082 more than in the previous year, despite no increase in the average number of miles Americans spent behind the wheel.

On the positive side, fatal traffic accidents as a trend remain at their lowest level since 1950. Also, preliminary reports for the first six months of 2013 showed that fatalities were lower than during the same period in 2012. That said, the holiday season is among the top periods for fatal drunk-driving accidents, with both more drivers on the road and also more people celebrating with alcohol.

"As we look to the future,” commented Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, “we must focus our efforts to tackle persistent and emerging issues that threaten the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians across the nation."

Source: USA TODAY, “Traffic fatalities increased 3.3% in 2012,” Larry Copeland, Nov. 14, 2013

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