Report Finds Traffic Deaths Jumped In First Half Of 2016

NEW YORK (CBS) -- Police believe speed was likely a factor in a crash last weekend on the Long Island Expressway in New York that killed six people, including a child and a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The wreck is the type of tragedy that is increasingly common on U.S. roads, according to a new report from the National Safety Council.

The report states that traffic death have increased 18 percent over the last two years. More than 19,000 people were estimated killed in the first half of 2016 alone.

“Our complacency when it comes to highway fatalities is killing us,” said Deborah Hersman, the National Safety Council’s CEO.

Hersman, who is also the former chair of the NTSB, said that there are three major causes of traffic fatalities.

“One third of all our deaths on our roads are due to alcohol impaired drivers,” she said. “We’ve seen speed limits going up across the nation -- we know that’s adding to the death toll. And then finally distraction. All you have to do is walk out near a roadway, you can see distracted pedestrians, distracted drivers.”

The surge in traffic deaths comes as more Americans are driving due to lower gas prices and an improving economy.

Federal regulators are still trying to understand what’s behind the sudden change in fatalities. A U.S. Department of Transportation report found a 13 percent increase in deaths among cyclists and a 10 percent increase for both pedestrians and young drivers in 2015.

“We are absolutely going in the wrong direction when it comes to highway fatalities. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it,” Hersman said.

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