The number of people killed in car crashes last year exceeded 40,000 for the first time in a decade, reversing a trend that saw traffic fatalities dwindle for several years, reports the Washington Post. Officials attribute the increase mostly to the improved economy and lower gas prices, which have led to more people driving for work and pleasure. The statistics released by the National Safety Council offer the first full picture of fatalities on the country’s roadways in 2016, and the numbers were significantly higher than those projected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The safety council data includes traffic deaths that occurred more than 30 days after a crash and those that happened on private property, like driveways or parking lots. “Our complacency is killing us,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president of the National Safety Council and former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board. “Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true. We lag the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We just haven’t been willing to do what needs to be done.”