California's rise in fatalities is linked at least in part to the health of the economy, according to Ken Kolosh, who manages the National Safety Council's statistics department.
"Despite incredible safety improvements in technology, education campaigns and legislative action, we suffered 40,000 fatalities on our roadways last year - the deadliest year on the nation's roads since 2007", Hersman noted.
The increase in traffic-related fatalities in the past two years is the sharpest increase in 53 years.
Hersman added that the top three "killers" in motor vehicle crashes remain speed, alcohol and distracted driving, yet there seems to be no public intent to change those behaviors. Twelve states saw a decline in highway deaths.
The figures are likely not a surprise to traffic safety experts, as traffic deaths have risen dramatically in recent years.
Surprisingly, the uptick in traffic deaths comes as more cars are being equipped with crash avoidance technology.
Traffic deaths began dropping in 2008 and reached their lowest point in six decades in 2011 at 32,000 deaths.
As the economy recovered, people not only began driving more, but they also increased more risky types of driving "like going out on the weekends or taking long trips on unfamiliar roads", said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"I don't mind people talking, because you can still drive, but when you see them and you've got the thing on the steering wheel, you can see their eyes being up in a truck this high they're not even paying attention to where they're driving, and I'm surprised more people aren't getting killed", said Pat Romeo of Springfield. This makes the case of the need for driverless vehicles more than anything. The National Safety Council also has proposed ignition interlock devices for convicted drunk drivers, to prevent drunk driving deaths.
New Mexico experienced the largest increase in traffic fatalities of any state, with the number of deaths jumping 34 percent from 2015 to 2016.