The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a slew of new data that shows a significant jump in the number of traffic-related fatalities during the first half of 2016.
More than 17,000 road deaths were recorded between the months of January and June, marking a 10 percent increase compared to the same period last year; it’s the biggest full-year percentage surge since 1966.
One of the reasons for such a steep increase, according to the report, is the steady uptick in the number of drivers who have since returned to the road in the years following the recession—more work equals more miles. Drivers traveled roughly 50 billion miles more between January and June of 2016 than they did during the same time frame last year.
Experts continue to speculate as to the cause of such drastic figures, though cell phones remain at the top of many people’s list. As an example, a recent study found that more than 11,000 daily incidents of distracted driving occur because of people playing the popular mobile app Pokémon Go, an interactive game that asks players to use their mobile device to seek out Pokémon characters.
While the Pokémon phenomenon may be somewhat of an anomaly, it’s an indication to safety experts that games, mobile apps, and texting are only adding to the frustrations of those trying to prevent distracted driving. What’s worse, they say, is that for all the injuries and deaths happening on the road, most if not all are preventable.
The NHTSA has dedicated more money to combat that trend, though it remains to be seen if Congress will act further to allow more studies. Speed limits have risen in recent years, and any money dedicated to federal transportation has been relegated to road infrastructure as opposed to behavioral studies.
To sum up the regional numbers: Fatalities increased by 20 percent in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; 10 percent in the states that comprise New England; and 9 percent in the Mid-Atlantic states. The only decrease in fatalities (just one percent) occurred in a group covering Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana.