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NHTSA data points to increase in motor vehicle fatalities

Over the past several years there has been a downward trend in the number of traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways. However, after year-after-year decreases, there is now a growing concern as motor vehicle fatalities increased for the first quarter of 2012.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 6,720 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents during the first three months of 2011. During the same time period this year the number increased by 13.5 percent to 7,630 traffic-related fatalities.

When looking at why there was an increase, while some may speculate that it has to do with inattentiveness while behind the wheel due to cellphones, the truth is it is simply too early to tell exactly what caused more traffic fatalities during the first quarter of the year.

Jacob Nelson, who is the director of traffic safety advocacy and research with AAA, said part of the reason for the increase may be due to the above average temperatures of this year's winter. This led to more drivers being out on the roads, which in turn led to more accidents. In fact, according to preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration, there was a 1.4 percent increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled on roadways across the country from January through the end of March.

However, this is of course not to say that things like distracted driving, drunk driving and speeding were not issues. In fact, this increase points to the need for more outreach to be done in order to limit distracted driving and improve overall driver safety.

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