Today the National Safety Council released the preliminary estimate showing an 8% increase for motor vehicle fatalities in 2015 than in 2014, making it the largest percent of motor vehicle deaths in 50 years.

The Council estimated that 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million were seriously injured, which means 2015 was likely the deadliest driving year since 2008.

Over the last year the NSC estimated Oregon was up by 27%, Georgia was up 22%, Florida up by 18%, and South Carolina was up by 16% increases in fatalities. Only 13 states showed improvements, among them, New Mexico down by 20%, Kansas down by 7% and New Jersey down by 2% showing a substantial decrease.

NSC has issued annual traffic fatality estimates since 1921. And while the estimate is subject to slight increases or decreases as data matures, over the last three years, preliminary estimates have only fallen within 1% of final counts.

NSC president and CEO, Deborah Hersman, saying: “These numbers are serving notice. Americans take their safety on the roadways for granted. 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. Engage your defensive driving skills and stay alert so we can reverse this trend in 2016.”

While there are many factors that likely contribute to the fatality increase, a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates are likely at the core of the trend. Gas prices were 28% lower in 2015 than in 2014 and projections show they will continue to drop this year, making driving more affordable for many Americans. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates a nearly 3.5% increase in the number of miles driven in 2015 compared to 2014.

Here are some recommendations from the Council in an attempt to keep drivers safe:

  • Make sure all of your passengers buckle up on every trip
  • Always designate a driver if alcohol will be involved in your travels
  • Don’t drive if you are fatigued and take regular breaks if needed
  • Never drive distracted by a cell phone
  • Because teens are three times more likely to crash as more experienced drivers, always teach good driving habits to new drivers
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them, such as cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.

For more on the date released from the NSC, click here.

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