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Fatal car accidents increase for first time since 2005

Fatal car accidents increased by five percent last year, bucking a seven-year trend of declining traffic fatalities in the U.S.

The National Safety Council reported that 36,200 people were killed in car accidents in 2012, which is the first time car accident fatalities have increased since 2005. In addition to traffic fatalities increasing, the number of people injured in car accidents also increased by five percent last year.

The NSC said that part of the increase may have been caused from more people driving last year because of the improved economy and the mild winter. They also said that people are driving differently, which may contribute to more accidents.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said people drive differently depending on the economy. They reported that during the economic downturn, people drove slower to try and conserve gas; they drove less on rural roads, which can be more dangerous compared to urban roads, and fewer commercial truck shipments were on the road. Now that the economy is improving, people are driving faster; more people are driving on rural roads and there are more commercial trucks on U.S. highways.

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said that while new vehicles are safer, more awareness needs to be done to educate drivers about the factors that contribute to many car accidents. Dangerous driving behaviors like using a cellphone while driving, drunk driving, not wearing a seat belt and inexperienced teen drivers all contributed to the increase in car accident fatalities in the U.S.

Source: Huffington Post, "Safety Council: Traffic deaths surged in 2012," Joan Lowy, Feb. 19, 2013

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