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U.S. highway fatalities increased in 2012

by Nat Shirley

Crash deaths increased by 3.3 percent to 33,361 in 2012, the NHTSA says.

A new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that the number of U.S. highway deaths climbed in 2012, marking the first increase since 2005.

Fatalities rose by 3.3 percent to 33,361, or 1,082 more than in 2011. About 72 percent of the increase occurred in the first quarter of the year, with pedestrians and motorcyclists accounting for the majority of those deaths.

The higher level of fatalities comes despite the fact that Americans drove roughly the same amount of miles in 2012 as in 2011, the NHTSA 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," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "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 NHTSA's report also indicated that distracted driving deaths fell slightly in 2012, decreasing to 3,328 from 3,360 in 211, although injuries spiked by 9.0 percent to 421,000. In addition, deaths resulting from drunk driving rose by 4.2 percent to 10,322.

On a brighter note, early estimates on crash fatalities during the first half of 2013 indicate a drop in deaths compared to the same period in 2012.