Indiana and the U.S. are seeing an uptick in traffic deaths in the first half of the year.
The National Safety Council says fatalities are up 14-percent nationwide. Indiana's 356 deaths represent a 23-percent increase, and the highest six-month total in three years.
Indiana Criminal Justice Institute spokesman Adam Baker says the primary causes of accidents haven't changed from year to year, but it's possible the number of drivers has. He says one possible factor is the steep drop in gas prices early this year -- with gas more than a dollar-a-gallon cheaper than in 2014, more people may have been on the roads.
In 2009, when the recession slammed Indiana, traffic deaths reached an 80-year low. Over the last 10 years, Indiana has averaged 13-percent more traffic deaths in the second half of the year than in the first six months.
But Baker says there’s no clear cause for the increase in traffic deaths in the first half of 2015.
“One of our goals is to do what we can when it comes to education and as we work with law enforcement, do what we can to enforce, and make sure that we bring those numbers down,” Baker says. “So, we are not necessarily alarmed by numbers that come in, outside of the fact that any life lost is obviously a concern for us.”
The state hasn't seen a decline in the death toll in the second half since 2007. Baker says that's because of summer driving and the holiday traffic during the Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
He says Fourth of July weekend deaths were down by more than half this year, raising hopes of better safety numbers between now and year’s end.