For the first time since 2005, traffic fatalities rose in 2012 (compared to 2011.)  According to preliminary data from the states, published on, approximately 36,200 people died as a result of motor vehicle accidents in 2012.  In 2011 34,600 died.

Some of the reasons given for the increase were unexpected…to me at least.  But first, the expected part.  Experts at the National Safety Council do believe that distracted driving in the form of cell phone use, is a contributing factor.  They admit it’s hard to quantify though.

Now onto the surprising reasons:  The surprising reasons include an improved economy and the mild winter of 2012.  Say what?

During an economic downturn people often drive slower to conserve gasoline.  As the economy improved in 2012, speeds picked up, thus resulting in more accidents.  Also during an economic downturn people spend less.  This means that there are fewer trucks on the road, because they have fewer things to deliver.  As the economy picked up, so did truck traffic.  Accidents involving trucks are more likely to be fatal.

Now you’re wondering what the mild winter had to do with more impacting the fatality count in a negative way.  It’s simple really.  Nicer weather, more driving.  Americans drive more when the weather is good.  A Saturday or Sunday drive, no problem.  The more we drive, the more accidents we have.

According to the article the estimated dollar cost of motor vehicle deaths in 2012 was more than $275 billion.