The National Safety Council released estimates this week that 40,200 people died in traffic fatalities in 2016. It would be the first time that more than 40,000 people died on U.S. roads since before the Great Recession.

According to the National Safety Council, traffic fatalities increased nearly 8% in 2015 over the prior year – the largest increase in 50 years. The first half of 2016 shows an increase of more than 10 % over the same period in 2015. The estimated cost of traffic fatalities, injuries and property damage in 2016 was $432.5 billion, an increase of 12 % from 2015. The NSC reports that the costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage.

What are the causes behind this? According to a survey completed by the National Safety Council though 83 % of drivers surveyed believe driving is a safety concern, several continue to speed (64%), text (47%), drive while under the influence of marijuana (13%) or drink and drive (10%).

The National Safety Council believes that many changes are necessary to stem the alarming increase in traffic fatalities since 2007. These include:

  • Mandatory ignition interlocks for first time offenders
  • Automated enforcement controls, such as red light and speed cameras
  • Renewing efforts to ban cell phone use while driving, including hands-free technology
  • Primary enforcement in every state to enforce seatbelt laws for every passenger in a vehicle
  • A three tier graduated drivers licensing system extended to 21 years of age
  • Mandatory universal motorcycle helmet laws and boosted pedestrian safety campaigns
  • Making auto technology, like lane deviation warning systems, standardized in all cars

The National Safety Council along with National Transportation Safety Board and several nongovernmental organizations, including the National Safety Council, began the Road to Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities within 30 years.

It is important to note that a coordinated effort to increase safety and awareness is critical in helping to reduce traffic fatalities within the United States.