The number of people who were killed in car crashes on U.S. roads increased by 8 percent in 2015, the National Safety Council (NSC) said Wednesday.
The NSC said there were 38,300 people killed in car accidents in 2015, compared to 35,236 in 2014.
The group said the increase was the largest percentage year-over-year jump in the number of car crash fatalities in 50 years.
“These numbers are serving notice: Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted,” said Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council and former National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman.
“Driving a car is one of the riskiest activities any of us undertake in spite of decades of vehicle design improvements and traffic safety advancements," Hersman continued. "Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016.”
The NSC said the states with the largest increases in auto accident fatalities in 2015 were Oregon (27 percent), Georgia (22 percent), Florida (18 percent) and South Carolina (16 percent).
The group said only 13 states had reductions in the number of car crash deaths last year, with New Mexico (20 percent), Kansas (7 percent) and New Jersey (2 percent) showing the biggest declines.
The NSC attributed the increase in traffic fatalities to a rise in driving in the U.S. that has been tied to improving economic conditions in the nation.
"While many factors likely contributed to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are likely at the core of the trend," the group said.
"Average gas prices were 28 percent lower in 2015 than in 2014 and are projected to continue dropping this year, making driving more affordable for many Americans," the NSC continued. "The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a 3.5 percent increase in the number of miles driven in 2015 compared to 2014."