Theeconomy may have been looking sunnier this year, but a recent study may have found a dark side to that bright picture.
Traffic deaths across the country rose 8% in the first 6 months of 2015, compared to that same time period last year, according to numbers compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The unlikely culprit? It may be the combination of an uptick in the economy, an improvement in the job market, and a drop in gas prices, the NHTSA posited. The nearly simultaneous occurrences likely resulted in more driving this year, the agency said.
All told, Americans traveled about 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of the year, itself an increase from the same period in 2014, when drivers clocked 3.5 percent fewer miles. NHTSA agents said the higher death toll may have been inevitable due to the increased amount of time Americans spent on the road.
Still, it gave a nod to increasingly problematic factors leading to distracted driving, which it said likely also played a role in the higher number of deaths this year. Distracted driving was deemed responsible for 32,675 traffic deaths in 2014—about 10% of all driving-related deaths that year—according to last year’s NHSTA survey.
Those same numbers also found that human error was to blame for 94% of all crashes in 2014.
Calling the 8% figure a “wake up call,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said a series of meetings would be held around the country to collect input on how to bring the death toll down in the future. The tour would culminate with a meeting in Washington, to discuss the issues—and possible solutions—with Congress, he said.