The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that an estimated 7,630 people died in automobile accidents in the first three months of this year - a 13.5 percent increase over the same time period last year.
If the estimates are confirmed, the numbers would represent the second largest year-to-year quarterly increase in automobile fatalities since 1975, when the government began tracking these statistics.
Officials do not have any concrete reasons for the increase in traffic fatalities this year.
Typically, the fatality rate is much lower in the first quarter compared with the rest of the year. Cold winter months keep more people inside and off the roads.
This year, the winter months were unseasonably warm. Since more people tend to drive when the weather is better, some analysts believe that this year's higher than normal temperatures may have contributed to the higher crash fatality rate.
Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that there was an increase of 9.7 billion miles traveled in the first quarter of 2012 compared with 2011.
Whatever the reason for the additional fatalities this year, Jacob Nelson, the director of traffic safety advocacy and research with the Automobile Association of America, says that one thing is clear: "These data show there is more work to be done to improve driver safety such as limiting distractions, reducing impaired driving and promoting a culture of safety among motorists."
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