Traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased by eight percent in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, according to recent estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
There were 25,808 deaths in the first nine months of 2015 and 27,875 deaths in the same time period last year, an increase of more than 2,000 deaths.
Americans traveled more miles during this period thanks to an improved economy. However, these factors alone do not explain the rise in deaths because miles traveled rose by only three percent, according to NHTSA officials.
Federal regulators pointed out that weather could also be a factor in the rise of traffic deaths. Research has shown fatalities increase during warmer weather because there are more daylight hours and Americans do more driving.
Distracted driving may have contributed to more deaths as well, but it is difficult to determine if drivers used cellphones and other mobile devices more often in the first nine months of 2016.
Regionally, traffic fatalities are increasing at different paces, according to the report. Over the first nine months of 2016, the New England region saw a 20 percent increase in traffic deaths. However, the region composed of North and South Dakota, Colorado Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada saw only a one percent increase during that period.
The soaring traffic death rate comes as a shock to regulators, because more cars have advanced safety technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear-view cameras.
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