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A total of 35,092 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015, breaking a recent historical trend of fewer traffic deaths occurring per year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Monday.
In its annual report of traffic fatalities, the NHTSA found that 2,348 more people died from vehicle-related incidents last year than in 2014 — a 7.2 percent increase.
Preliminary estimates show that motor vehicle fatalities are continuing to rise in 2016.
“35,092. That is the number of people who died on our nation’s highways in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015,” the NHTSA said in a press release. “Your neighbor driving to work. Your niece walking to the park. Your brother biking home.”
The uptick in traffic deaths has been attributed to an increase in driving, lower gas prices, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates.
Safety advocates have also hoisted a red flag over the role of distracted driving, drowsy driving and increased cellphone use behind the wheel.
The annual report was published three months earlier than last year and was put into a raw data set that contains detailed, anonymized information about each of the fatal incidents.
The NHTSA is now calling on nonprofits, tech companies, educational institutions and private sector firms to use the data to analyze how improving economic conditions are changing how Americans are getting around or how climate change might impact the risk of fatal crashes in a community.
“We’re directly soliciting your help to better understand what these data are telling us,” the NHTSA said. “The journey toward zero deaths on our roads will be a long one, but data will provide the guiding lights to take us there.”