Traffic fatalities on the rise

The number of people who were killed in traffic accidents on U.S. highways increased by 1,082 from 2011 to 2012, according to statistics released on Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The traffic safety agency said there were 33,561 fatal highway accidents in 2012, compared to 32,479 in 2011.

The agency said 72 percent of the increase in roadway deaths came during the first quarter of last year, with a majority involving motorcyclists and pedestrians.

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The increase in highway deaths in 2012 marked the first jump in road fatalities since 2005, the agency said. 

“Highway deaths claim more than 30,000 lives each year, and while we’ve made substantial progress over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we have much more work to do,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.  “As we look to the future, we must focus our efforts to tackle persistent and emerging issues that threaten the safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians across the nation.”

The highway safety agency said there were increases in deaths among large trucks, bicyclists and crashes involving drunk drivers, in addition to the jump in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths.

The agency said there were 10,322 crashes in 2012 involving drivers who had nearly double the amount alcohol in their system than the legal, .08 percent blood alcohol level.

By comparison, there were 9,865 drunk driver crashes in 2011, according to the highway safety agency.

The full accident statistics can be read here.