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Improving economy may have caused increase in car crash deaths

Historically, the number of car accidents that occur in Colorado and across the country has risen and fallen in sync with the U.S. economy and unemployment rate. The reason for this is pretty simple. When people lose their jobs, they no longer have to drive to work. Further, a loss of income means that families are not able to travel as often.

So during periods of high unemployment, there are simply less cars on the road and, therefore, fewer opportunities for car accidents, injuries and fatalities. This was proven true during the recent economic recession, when motor vehicle accident deaths hit a record low number. And now, as more people are getting back to work and back on the road, it appears to be responsible for the concurrent increase in traffic fatalities.

According to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents increased significantly in the first six months of 2012. Specifically, the NHTSA's statistical projection has estimated that 16,290 people were killed in car accidents between January and June, a nine percent from the first half of 2011, during which 14,950 people died on U.S. roads. That jump marked the largest increase in crash deaths during the first half of any year since the agency began collecting traffic fatality data in 1975.

Although there are likely many reasons for the increase, such as a rise in distracted driving and other dangerous behaviors, it appears that the recovering economy may be at least partially to blame. Recent data from the Federal Highway Administration indicates that Americans traveled 15.6 billion more miles in the first half of 2012 than in the same time period of 2011.

Source: CNN, "Traffic fatalities up 9% in first half of 2012," Jim Barnett, Sept. 28, 2012

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