The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 2015 marked the deadliest year on U.S. roads since 2008 - there were 35,092 traffic deaths.
Wednesday, the agency said that deaths spiked 10.4% so far in 2016.
“You go through a lot, you know, when that happens,” said Belen Castaneda of Houston.
Her 17 year-old cousin Raul Zermeno died seven years ago when she says the car he was in collided with another vehicle along Highway 225 in Pasadena.
“Nobody was wearing a seatbelt. So he got ejected,” said Castaneda.
She’s skeptical of the ambitious “Road to Zero” initiative unveiled Wednesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others. It sets a timeline, for the first time, to eliminate traffic deaths by the year 2046.
“About a year ago, our road safety communities started to get signs that after decades of progress reducing fatalities,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “All of the sudden we’re suddenly losing ground,” he added.
Their road map includes a marketing campaign, long-term infrastructure improvements, and the auto industry’s further advancement of self-driving vehicles.
They want to go beyond the automated steering, braking, and accelerating currently available in some models.
Castaneda also believes all of us can make immediate changes in our behind the wheel behavior.
“And it just makes me so angry because I’m like you need to be focused,” said Castaneda. “Not worried about putting on your makeup, or texting, or answering your phone call,” she added.
The NHTSA blames, in part, distracted driving for the increase in traffic deaths.
It also suspects a rise in overall miles many of us travel thanks to low gas prices.