The end of one year and beginning of another often corresponds with the release of yearly statistics from various government agencies. In December, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that traffic deaths fell 1.9 percent in 2011. The good news was tempered by a noted upswing in preliminary reports of road fatalities in 2012.
The final 2011 numbers showed that nationwide traffic deaths fell to 32,367, which was the lowest level since 1949. Thirty-six states had fewer year-over-year deaths with North Carolina experiencing the second largest decrease in the number of fatalities. Between 2010 and 2011, private vehicle accidents on the state's roadways accounted for 93 fewer fatalities.
The national fatality rate decreased to 1.1 deaths per 100 million miles travelled in 2011.
North Carolina Department of Transportation 2012 Figures
State agencies often have more immediate information that the federal agencies. Preliminary reports for 2012 showed a slight increase in North Carolina car accident deaths. The NCDOT reported that 1,224 people died on North Carolina's roads last year. Those fatalities included 23 bicyclists and 170 pedestrians.
The numbers were lower than the reported average of 1,560 between 2001 and 2006.
Arthur Goodwin, a senior research associate at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill, told the Charlotte Observer that fatalities ebb and flow with the economy. "As the economy improves, people drive more, work more," which leads to more fatalities on the roads.
Factors cited in the general reduction of auto accident deaths
Experts cite better seatbelt usage along with improving airbag technologies and safer vehicle designs for the reduction in road deaths. Driver behavior - speeding and impaired driving - is also improving.
North Carolina law, educational efforts and law enforcement crackdowns all have helped to ensure that everyone buckles up. All drivers and passengers must use seatbelts or face a fine and court costs that can total more than $100. Click It of Ticket campaigns have increased rates of seat belt usage since first initiated.
Another effort to reduce speeding called No Need 2 Speed Campaign may also be delivering results. In 2012, the number of speed-related deaths declined from 335 in 2011 to 319 reported in 2012.
Lastly, reported drunk driving deaths declined in 2012. The number of fatal accidents investigated by the State Highway Patrol decreased on highway and rural roads across the state.
Dangers still exist
While the roads continue to become safer in general, there are still risks posed by distracted drivers. Nationally, the number of people killed in distraction-affected accidents increased by 1.9 percent from 3,267 to 3,331. According the NHTSA, the increase could in part be related to increased awareness and reporting.
Pedestrians and cyclists - both pedal and motor - still face dangers from auto accidents. Fatalities increased in each of these groups, which might be related to more people taking advantage of alternate ways to commute.
Even with fewer reported deaths in 2011, each year about 2.2 million people suffer injuries in nearly 5.4 million reported crashes costing approximately $300 billion.
When an auto accident results in serious injury or death, a consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney is a step along the road toward recovery. A lawyer can advise of available remedies and ensure you and your family's rights are protected throughout the settlement process.