The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 37,461 people lost their lives on U.S. roads in 2016,
an increase of 5.6 percent from 2015.
The NHTSA data, which was collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showed that while fatalities from distracted driving and drowsy driving declined last year, "deaths related to other reckless behaviors – including speeding, alcohol impairment and not wearing seat belts – continued to increase."
Since the number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 increased 2.2 percent, NHTSA said the fatality rate reached 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT for a 2.6-percent increase from 2015.
The agency also said that deaths of motorcyclists and pedestrians accounted for more than a third of the year-to-year increase.
Pedestrian deaths increased by 9 percent to 5,987, NHTSA said, and were at the highest level since 1990.
Many state departments of transportation have bolstered their efforts in recent years to make motorists more aware of the risks posed by distracted driving or driving while fatigued, as well as risks from speeding, drinking and not using seat belts.
NHTSA said distraction-related deaths declined by 2.2 percent in 2016, while fatalities linked to drowsy driving were reduced by 3.5 percent.
But speeding-related fatalities increased by 4.0 percent last year, NHTSA said, while deaths from people not using seat belts increased by 4.6 percent and drunk-driving deaths increased 1.7 percent.
This comes at a time when additional driver-assistance technologies are making cars safer to operate.
NHTSA also noted that the 5.6 rise in fatalities for 2016 followed a jump of 8.4 percent in traffic deaths during 2015, after years in which fatality levels had mostly trended downward.
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