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Safety experts say a recent rise in traffic deaths may be caused in part by the improving economy.Deaths in the first half of 2012 rose nine per cent over the same period last year, to 16,290, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader told the Washington Post, “People who lose their jobs or are worried they may lose them don’t take as many optional trips…Once the economy improves, that confidence comes back.”
The report notes vehicle miles traveled in the six month period increased by 15.6 billion, a 1.1 per cent increase. With more drivers on the road, accidents, and thus deaths, increase.
Traffic deaths have declined precipitously since 2006, reaching a 60 year low in 2011. That mark makes this year’s nine per cent jump more noticeable, but the 16,290 deaths actually represent a 27 per cent decline from 2006.
Other potential factors behind the recent bump include the warm winter and low gasoline prices, which mean more drivers on the road, and the increase in texting while driving and the use of prescription drugs, according to Reuters.
The numbers released in the report are provisional, and a full breakdown of traffic deaths in 2012 will be available in about a year.
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