WASHINGTON—Highway fatalities in 2012 totaled 33,561, an increase of 1,082 or 3.3 percent from the year before, according to the latest Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
However, early FARS estimates of fatalities for the first six months of 2013 are down 4.2 percent from the first six months of 2012, to 15,470 from 16,150.
While 2012 saw the first increase in U.S. highway fatalities since 2005, road deaths have been at historic lows for the past several years, according to NHTSA. The 32,479 fatalities in 2011 were an all-time low, the agency said.
While NHTSA did not give specific reasons for the increase in fatalities, it said pedestrian deaths, motorcycle rider deaths and large-truck occupant fatalities rose in 2012 for the third straight year.
Most pedestrian deaths occurred at non-intersections in urban areas, and many involved alcohol, the agency said. Most of the motorcycle deaths occurred in states without mandatory helmet laws, and riders without helmets were 10 times as likely to die as those with helmets, NHTSA said.
Drunk-driving fatalities increased 4.6 percent in 2012, to 10,322 from 9,865, but distracted-driving deaths inched down to 3,328 from 3,360, the agency said.
"Nighttime seat belt use continues to be a challenge," NHTSA said. "In nighttime crashes in 2012, almost two-thirds of the people that died were unrestrained."