Arkansas Traffic Deaths Rise as Nationwide Average Drops in 2006

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Deaths from traffic crashes in Arkansas increased last year, as the nationwide average dropped.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration recorded 665 fatal crashes in 2006, up from 654 in 2005.  Nationwide, traffic deaths dropped from 43,510 to 42,642 in 2006...a historic low.

Ann McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says the increase of 11 "was due to chance and not anything else."

However, motorcycle and alcohol-related crashes continued to rise nationwide.  Alcohol-related fatalities jumpled slightly in 2006 over the previous year, while motorcycle deaths increased by 5.1 percent.  The agency has reported an increase in motorcycle deaths for nine straight years.

Teresa Belew of the Arkansas office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says she isn't surprised by the Arkansas statistics.  She blames the state's lack of a primary seat-belt law and a coordinated trauma care system.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)