A report submitted to Congress by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that U.S. traffic-related deaths rose 7.7 percent in 2015 to 35,200, the highest number of victims since 2008 and the largest annual jump since 1966.
Officials maintain that the increase in the number of fatalities is in part due to a rise in the average number of miles traveled, inexpensive gasoline and the strength of the economy.
According to the report, the fatality rate jumped in 2015 to 1.12 deaths for every 100 million miles traveled. Throughout the year, vehicles in the U.S. traveled a record 3.15 trillion miles, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2014.
The rise in the number of traffic-related deaths is prompting officials to work closely with government agencies and automakers on the development of regulations for autonomous vehicles.
The NHTSA maintains that the technology integrated in self-driving vehicles could significantly reduce the number of traffic deaths, 94 percent of which are said to be due to driver error.