Highway deaths in the U.S. increased by 3.3 percent in 2012, but the number of traffic deaths in Washington, D.C., decreased significantly.
And across the country, numbers over the past five years continue to remain at historic lows, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A total of 33,561 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. last year -- compared to 32,479 in 2011. This was the first increase in highway deaths since 2005.
Fatalities in 2011 were at the lowest level since 1949, and even with the slight increase in 2012, highway deaths are still at their lowest since 1950.
"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."
Fatalities from drunk driving crashes have increased by 4.6 percent in 2012. The majority of these crashes involved drivers with a BAC of .15 or higher -- nearly double the legal limit.
Washington, D.C. experienced a big drop in overall traffic fatalities, which decreased by 44 percent since last year. The city also showed a decrease in drunk driving fatalities in 2012, dropping by 5 percent from 2011.
In recent years, pedestrian, bicyclist and motorcyclist fatalities have risen. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have increased from 13 percent of total traffic deaths in 2003 to 17 percent in 2012. Motorcyclist deaths have risen from 9 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2012.