Mild weather blamed for Nebraska traffic toll jump

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ A mild winter and little rain, oddly enough, are being blamed for a jump in Nebraska traffic deaths last year.

State records said the 2012 total as of Monday was 207, compared with 181 in 2011 and 190 in 2010.

State highway safety administrator Fred Zwonechek told the Lincoln Journal Star ( that most people drive slower and more cautiously when snow, ice or rain make roadways more perilous. But the warmer and drier weather than normal in January resulted in people driving as if it were June: faster and less cautious.

Zwonechek said 22 people died on Nebraska roads in January last year, compared with seven and eight the previous two years. It also was the highest number of January fatalities since 2003.

``We basically had that through the entire year'' of 2012, Zwonechek said. Good weather most of the year and a drop in gas prices toward the end of 2012 led to more people driving more miles and, ultimately, more of them getting into accidents.

And, similar to the cases in previous years, Zwonechek said, the biggest contributors to the death toll were people who drink and drive, people who don't buckle up and people who drive distracted.

Despite the overall 2012 increase in fatalities, he said, the trend still is inching downward.

The state Department of Roads has recorded 23,142 traffic deaths since it began keeping records in 1936. The record for one year was set in 1971, when 489 people died in traffic accidents.

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