Photo by W. Robert Howell from Charlotte, N.C., via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr.

Photo by W. Robert Howell from Charlotte, N.C., via Wikimedia Commons/Flickr.

The number of motor vehicle deaths in the first six months of 2015 was 14 percent higher compared to the same period in 2014, according to the National Safety Council, and serious injuries climbed 30 percent.

From January to June, nearly 19,000 people died in traffic crashes across the U.S. and more than 2.2 million suffered serious injuries. As a result, the country is on pace for its deadliest driving year since 2007, NSC reported.

Costs are also up. The six-month estimated bill for traffic deaths, injuries and property damage was $152 billion – 24 percent higher than 2014, NSC said.

“Follow the numbers: the trend we are seeing on our roadways is like a flashing red light – danger lies ahead,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC president and CEO. “Be a defensive driver and make safe decisions behind the wheel. Your life really depends on it.”

The high death and injury toll could be the result of many factors, NSC noted. But an improving economy with lower gas prices and lower unemployment rates certainly led to increases in vehicle miles traveled.

During the six-month period, average gas prices were 30 percent lower than they were in 2014. Gas prices are also expected to remain relatively stable heading into 2016. This generally means an increase in traffic. More people can afford to drive, and many travel longer distances and take vacations.

To help promote safe driving, NSC offers the following advice: 

  • Make sure every passenger buckles up on every trip.
  • Designate an alcohol-free and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation.
  • Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
  • Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free.
  • Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits. Teens are three times as likely to crash as more experienced drivers.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. My Car Does What can help drivers understand the ins and outs of features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.

Click here to download more NSC statistics for the first six months of 2015.

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