Traffic deaths rose 13.5% in the first quarter of this year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures, the Associated Press reported.
About 7,630 people died in motor vehicle crashes, up from 6,720 deaths a year ago, AP reported, citing NHSTA figures.
The number of fatalities per miles driven also rose significantly, said NHTSA, which is part of the Department of Transportation. The agency did not break out deaths involving trucks.
If the preliminary estimate holds, it would be the second largest quarterly increase since the government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975, AP said.
In May, NHTSA reported that 2011 traffic deaths fell to the lowest level in six decades, and the rate of deaths per miles driven was lower than at any time since 1921, AP said.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Commission, which represents state highway safety offices, said that while “unprecedented gains have been made since 2006 in reducing traffic deaths . . . it is too early to draw conclusions about the data and the reasons for the increase, the strengthening economy and the warm winter may be factors.”